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 a range of topics, including: wildlife-vehicle collisions; 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 currently based in Jackson, WY.
Feature in Planet Jackson Hole
My work and career are highlighted in a feature in Planet Jackson Hole!
Spring flowers: now and then
A team of interns and volunteers will be busy scouring the area around Blacktail Butte in Grand Teton National Park for newly-emerging flowers this spring and summer. Thanks to support from the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund, we recently pulled together Frank Craighead, Jr.'s notes on first flowering times from the 1970s. Now we are laying plans to start collecting contemporary data on first flowering times, retracing Craighead's steps from his cabin as best as possible. First flowering times are a good indicator of climate change and some of the impacts it may be having on plant communities — as well as the many species of insects, birds, and mammals that depend on these plants.
Four-year grant from National Science Foundation to study invasive ants in Kenya
The National Science Foundation recently awarded a four-year grant to me and my colleagues, Todd Palmer, Jake Goheen, and Jayne Belnap to study the ecosystem consequences of the invasive big-headed ant in Kenya's savannas. 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.
With our new project, we will be able to ask questions like how extensive is the big-headed ant invasion? How rapidly are they spreading? What are the long-term consequences for trees and all the other species that depend on acacia trees in various ways?
Grant from WYDOT to study deer road-crossing behavior
My team has started working on a new project, funded by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, to understand how traffic patterns affect deer road-crossing behavior. It is commonly thought that above some traffic threshold, big game are no longer able to cross roads. However, studies aimed at finding this threshold have generally used a crude approach, relying on long-term average traffic counts (rather than the traffic that the deer experiences as it crosses). Thanks to new infra-red video technology, we will be able to look at the instantaneous traffic conditions as deer attempt to cross roads and evaluate their success (or failure) to cross. Understanding the traffic threshold at which roads become a barrier to wildlife movements is critical for planning where and how best to provide opportunities for wildlife to cross roads safely.