Alligator Population Ecology

My dissertation research is examining population ecology of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in South Carolina under the advisement* of Dr. Patrick Jodice and Dr. Clint Moore of the South Carolina and Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units, respectively.

Alligators are often simultaneously viewed as a keystone species of ecological importance, a controversial public safety nuisance, and a valuable economic resource. Intensive development on South Carolina’s coastal plain within the alligator’s core range presents additional challenges to effective conservation and management decision-making to satisfy multiple stakeholder groups. In cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Resources, the objectives of my dissertation research are to:

Examine annual and seasonal variation in alligator abundance and size class composition, identify major drivers of said variation (e.g., climate, anthropogenic disturbance)
 (2) Identify factors that influence variation in habitat selection (e.g., demographic, individual, behavioral), evaluate connectivity among habitat types and managements units, determine harvest vulnerability
 (3)Combine satellite telemetry and population count data to optimize monitoring program design to maximize population estimation precision and accuracy.
 (4) Examine linkages between foraging patterns, climate, and contaminant exposure to identify causal mechanisms for observed population dynamics.
 (5) Synthesize population, habitat, and foraging data in an adaptive management framework that meets the needs of multiple stakeholders and ensures long-tern population viability, to inform management decisions.

  • February 2018 - I recently completed a book chapter on alligator movements for the upcoming book, American Alligators: Habitats, Behaviors, and Threats from Nova Publishing. Looking forward to seeing the final product sometime this year!

*Dr. Katherine (Kate) McFadden was the original Principal Investigator on this project. Kate served as my advisor and Assistant Unit Leader of the South Carolina  Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit prior to her unexpected passing on Monday, October 28th, 2014. Given her intimate involvement with the project, I have created a dedicated page for Kate that provides more information, and will serve as a permanent home for her memory.