I am a PhD candidate with the Santa Cruz Puma Project in the Wilmers Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I am interested in how human-induced changes in animal behavior can have far-reaching impacts throughout animal communities. Currently, I focus on the behavioral ecology of large carnivores and the species with which they interact.


 

My Approach

Conservation Behavior of Keystone Predators

My research focuses on how to best preserve carnivores and their ecological roles in modified landscapes by understanding their behavioral responses to human disturbances. The link between animal fear and community dynamics has been well established in ecology, yet the application of this theory to human-dominated systems is in its infancy. Understanding the relationships between fear and species interactions can better inform conservation plans in areas where humans have usurped the role as the top predator. As a member of the Santa Cruz Puma Project, I investigate how people change carnivore behavior and ecology, particularly in regard to hunting and feeding behaviors. 

Advancing Methods in Conservation Behavior

In my research, I strive to employ the most cutting-edge and effective methods available. I use motion-sensor cameras, playback experiments, novel techniques in DNA metabarcoding, spatial analysis tools, and citizen science to investigate the links between humans and wildlife. My approach to conservation research is built on a belief that we need to continue to advance our methodologies in order to both learn about and create solutions to modern conservation problems.

Public Outreach and Education

Conservation success relies on the accessibility, relatability, and relevance of conservation science to the public. My mission as a conservation biologist includes the dissemination of scientific information to the public and encouraging public involvement in science. I achieve this primarily through public talks and field trips, citizen science, and social media. 

Puma photos © Sebastian Kennerknecht