Research

Education
Originally from Kansas City, Kansas, I obtained a BSc (Honors) in Biology from the University of Kansas in 1995. I then obtained a MSc in Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University in 1998, and a PhD in Wildlife Science from Texas Tech University in 2002. After my PhD, I obtained a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct postdoctoral research at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Mammal Research Institute in Bialowieza, Poland. Afterwards, I obtained a Marie Curie Fellowship (European Commission) to conduct postdoctoral research in South Africa through the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford.
 
Research Summaries
Cambodia - II
From December 2015 to May 2019, I was involved with camera-trap surveys for the Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in eastern Cambodia. The surveys were carried out annually in two adjacent reserves: Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary. These reserves contain the last known population of leopards in all of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, thus information on their numbers and population trends is critical for conservation efforts. Unfortunately, populations declined annually in both reserves, and now only a small population remains, probably less than 10 individuals. The primary reason for the ongoing decline is indiscriminate and widespread snaring for the illegal wildlife trade. Efforts are being made to improve law enforcement in the parks, although it is not yet known if these efforts can save the population. The surveys were funded by Panthera and the Robertson Foundation (through WildCRU - Oxford University), with support from WWF Cambodia, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Royal Government of Cambodia.

Java, Indonesia
From August to November 2017, I was involved in with a camera-trap survey for the Critically Endangered Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) in Meru Betiri National Park, eastern Java. This was the first systematic camera-trap survey conducted in the park. Results showed that both spotted and black leopards occurred in the park, and analysis is ongoing to estimate the leopard density. This survey was funded by Panthera, in collaboration with FFI and the staff at Meru Betiri National Park.

Thailand
From February to June 2017, I was involved with camera-trap surveys for the Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in western and southern Thailand. The surveys were carried out in Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary, part of the Western Forest Complex, and Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in peninsular Thailand. Results showed that both spotted and black leopards occurred in Salakpra, but that number of individuals was extremely low. Unfortunately, no leopards were detected Khlong Saeng, and therefore we conclude that leopards are likely extinct in the reserve, and possibly the entire Thailand peninsula. These survey were funded by Panthera, in collaboration with ZSL Thailand, DWNP, Faculty of Foresty - Kasetsart University, Faculty of Veterinary Science - Mahidol University, and the staff at Salapra and Khlong Saeng wildlife sanctuaries.

Malaysia
From June to November 2016, I was involved with camera-trap surveys for the Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in Peninsular Malaysia. The surveys were carried out in Taman Negara National Park near Merapoh, and in the nearby Pasir Raja Forest Reserve, which is part of an eco-certified logging concession. Results showed that a modest number of black leopards occurred in Taman Negara, whereas fewer black leopards occurred in Pasir Raja. No spotted leopards were detected in the surveys. Analysis is still ongoing to determine leopard densities in both sites. These survey were funded by Panthera, in collaboration with Rimba, DWNP, staff from Taman Negara National Park – Merapoh outpost, and staff from Golden Pharos Berhad.

Cambodia - I
From January 2013 to May 2016, I was involved with a project on the ecology of dholes (Cuon alpinus), golden jackals (Canis aureus), Indochinese jungle cats (Felis chaus fulvidina), and leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) in Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary (formerly Mondulkiri Protection Forest) in eastern Cambodia. The primary goal of the project was to determine the spatial and dietary overlap of dholes and jackals, which might compete for limited food and territorial space. We also determined the dietary overlap of jackals, jungle cats, and leopard cats to determine the potential competition for prey among these mesocarnivores. The research involved attempts to capture and place GPS collars on dholes and jackals, and the collection of scats of all species to determine their dietary habits. Scats were assigned to species based on DNA analysis. Dhole populations declined dramatically at the start of the study, likely because of an outbreak of canine distemper. Consequently, no dholes were collared during the study. A total of 6 adult jackals (3 males and 3 females) were captured and collared. Annual home ranges of jackals were relatively large, 50-70 km2, and they appeared to avoid areas of high dhole activity. Dholes consumed mostly ungulates, whereas jackals consumed mostly small rodents and insects – so there was little competition for the same food resources. Both jungle cats and leopard cats consumed small rodents, so competition between these two species was potentially high. Overall, this project included the training of Cambodian students and park staff for identification of wildlife sign, and the techniques for monitoring wildlife populations. This project was in collaboration with the WWF Cambodia program and Ministry of Environment, Royal Government of Cambodia. Funding was provided by the Kolmarden Fundraising Foundation (Sweden), Taronga Foundation (Australia), Iris Darnton Foundation (UK), Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (UK), and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (UAE).

Laos
From 2010 to 2012, I conducted research on the ecology of dholes in the Nam Et-Phou Louey (NEPL) National Protected Area in northern Laos. The primary goal of this project was to determine the seasonal diet, prey selection, and activity of dholes. We used only non-invasive techniques (e.g., DNA analysis of feces, camera-trap data) to collect basic ecological data on dholes and their prey. Our results showed that dholes focused predation on relatively few prey species (i.e., muntjac and sambar) during diurnal hours, thus the management of these prey species may be important for conserving dhole populations in the region. We concluded that the pressures of hypercarnivory and rather narrow niche breadth may be limiting factors for dhole populations in the tropical forests of northern Laos. Major achievements included the training of Laotian students and park staff for identification of dhole and prey signs, and the initiation of long-term surveys for dholes. This research was in collaboration with the WCS Lao PDR Program, and was funded by the Kolmarden Fundraising Foundation, Sweden, and the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation, U.K.
 
Bhutan
During 2009, I condcuted research on the distribution and diets of dholes in Bhutan. A primary goal was to compare predation by dholes on both wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and livestock. Wild pigs cause considerable damage in Bhutan by destroying crops of subsistence farmers, and consequently are classified as a national pest. The main results showed that dholes preyed upon more wild pigs than livestock, and that livestock were only preyed upon during certain seasons. We concluded that dholes can greatly benefit farmers because of their predation on wild pigs, and livestock losses could be redued if farmers provided better protection for cattle, especially during the rainy season. I helped train biologists and park staff in field research methods, and worked with local people to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. I worked in collaboration with Bhutan's Nature Conservation Division, and managers of several national parks. The project was funded by the Iris Darnton Foundation, U.K., and the Institute for Conservation Research, Zoological Society of San Diego.
 
South Africa
From 2005 to 2008, my post-doctoral research focused on the ecology and interactions of cape foxes (Vulpes chama), bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis), and black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) on two study sites in South Africa. Important data was collected on the social organization, home ranges, habitat use, activity, and diets of all three species. The main results showed that the presence of jackals had a strong effect on the behavior and ecology of both fox species. In particular, jackals had a strong negative impact on cape fox numbers, primarily through predation, and caused major changes in cape fox behaviors. Although bat-eared fox numbers were not affected, jackals did affect the group sizes and movements of bat-eared foxes. Thus, larger carnivores can affect not only numbers, but also behaviors, of smaller carnivores.
 
Poland
During 2002-2004, my post-doctoral research involved an ecological study of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in the old growth forests of Bialowieza, which contain the most natural and diverse large predator-prey ecosystem in Europe. Although red deer had been studied extensively in Europe, none had occurred in historic natural habitats with large carnivores present. Our main results showed that under these relatively natural conditions, red deer exhibit unique activity and movement patterns, probably due to the presence of large carnivores, primarily wolves (Canis lupus).
 
Texas (PhD)
From 1998 to 2002, my PhD research concerned the ecology and behavior of swift foxes (Vulpes velox), a vulnerable species, and their interactions with coyotes (Canis latrans) in the shortgrass prairie of the Texas Panhandle. Important information was collected on the use of fragmented and continuous habitats by swift foxes. The main results showed that coyotes had a strong negative impact on swift fox populations, primarily through direct predation and spatial displacement. Consequently, lower coyote numbers due to human hunting caused swift fox populations to significantly increase. The imbalance of high coyote numbers and low swift fox numbers is probably due to the extirpation of wolves, which historically may have kept coyote numbers at moderate densities.
 
Kansas (MSc)
From 1995 to 1998, my Master's research focused on the ecology and interactions of coyotes, bobcats (Lynx rufus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), and opossums (Didelphis virginiana) in a tallgrass prairie ecosystem in northeastern Kansas. Detailed data was collected on the home ranges and habitat use of all four species. The main results showed that coyotes can attain relatively high densities in protected areas, probably due to the absence of large predators (e.g., wolves) and lack of human hunting. Consequently, the largest cause of mortality for raccoons and opossums was predation from coyotes, and coyotes even killed one of the collared bobcats. Thus, the benefits of protected areas for smaller species might be offset by the higher mortalities due to coyote predation, at least in areas where wolves are absent.
 
Kansas (BSc)
From 1993 to 1995, I conducted undergraduate research on the morphology and habitat use of two similar Peromyscus species (deer mice and white-footed mice) on research plots near Lawrence, Kansas. The main results showed that the mice species had different morphologies in habitats where they occurred together, compared to habitats where they occurred separately. In fact, morphologies became more similar in habitats where they occurred together, making it harder to differentiate between the species. This phenomenon was opposite of that predicted by the ecological theory of character displacement.