Conservation and Research
I work to understand and conserve areas of unique biodiversity through a combination of research, education, and close partnerships with natural resource managers. I have a wide variety of interests and experience in topics including road ecology; large herbivore movement, migration, and habitat selection patterns; rangeland monitoring, management, and restoration; and impacts of invasive species, land-use change, and climate change on natural systems. I am based in Lander, WY where I am a Conservation Scientist with The Nature Conservancy's Wyoming chapter. I am also a Research Associate with the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming's Department of Zoology and Physiology and Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.
Landscape of Risk for Eagle-Vehicle Collisions in Wyoming
In collaboration with Bryan Bedrosian (Teton Raptor Center) and Holly Copeland (The Nature Conservancy), we have mapped the landscape of risk for Golden Eagle vehicle collisions. Eagles and other raptors get hit by vehicles when they come to feed on mammals that have been hit by vehicles along roadways. However, there is little understanding of where and when the risk to eagles is greatest. We brought together our best understanding of the spatio-temporal patterns of ungulate-vehicle collisions and our best understanding of eagle space-use in Wyoming to map out spatial and temporal patterns of eagle-vehicle collision risk. We have just completed this work, with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Study on Reducing Speed Limits as a Means to Reduce Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions Enters Second Year
Last year, I started a new project, working in close collaboration with WYDOT, to test the effectiveness of reducing night time speed limits as a means to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Although the idea that reducing speed limits will reduce collisions is logical and popular, transportation managers generally feel that it will not work because drivers do not actually slow down. There have been few well-designed studies on the topic. Last year, we started testing the idea comprehensively at six sites in southwestern Wyoming. Whereas last year was mostly baseline data collection (before speed limit reductions were applied), this year, WYDOT has implemented reduced speed limits at all six sites. The research team is busy collecting data on vehicle speeds, deer behavior, and deer-vehicle collisions.
Big-headed Ants March Forward
The big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) invasion continues to march across the savannas of Kenya, slowly invading plots my colleagues and I set up to test the effects of this invasion. This ant kills native ants that have a mutualistic partnership with acacia trees: the ants protect the trees against herbivores like elephants (yes, tiny ants deter giant elephants!) and in return the trees give the ants a home and sugary nectar. Where the big-headed ant has invaded, the trees no longer have their native ant defenders and are being pushed over by elephants. (You can read about my preliminary work on this topic in the New York Times and Science online). We are working to understand in greater depth what the big-headed ant does to trees, how fast these wildlife-rich savannas are losing trees, and what the consequences are for native wildlife like zebras, gazelles, rhinos, and giraffes.