Understanding the Mechanistic Underpinnings of Top-down Trophic Control
My interests focus primarily on the physiological constraints of locomotion for terrestrial carnivores, namely top canid predators like gray wolves (Canis lupus). My research is centered on how the elevated energetic demands of these elusive carnivores structure the ecological communities they inhabit. I am also investigating how habitat perturbation may affect the movement ecology and foraging efficiency of these animals.
Top carnivores are rare and particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbance because of their high energy requirements. We need to understand their resource requirements and activity patterns in order to predict their likely responses to ongoing ecosystem change (ex: prey availability, habitat fragmentation). If their energetic needs are not met and their populations decline, the landscapes they inhabit could change profoundly.
Project & Goals:
I use innovative wildlife collar techonology, developed through collaborators at UCSC, to remotely monitor the activities and energetic demands of wolves and other carnivores. In order to be useful for investigators and wildlife managers, I calibrate these collars on captive animals via treadmill experiments and ground-truthing in the field. Ultimately, this technology enables scientists to monitor the behavioral and energetic diaries of free-ranging animals, thereby affording a more mechanistic understanding of why top carnivores are so ecologically important.