Ph.D. (candidate) Vanderbilt University, Earth and Environmental Sciences
M.S. University of California, Santa Barbara, Earth Science
B.S. College of Charleston, Geology
Contact: jennifer.l.bradham at vanderbilt.edu
Tropical ecosystems regulate global climate, act as carbon sinks, and contain some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world (Clement et al., 2001, Gaston, 2000). Yet, they are also among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet (Achard et al., 2002). Thus, knowledge of their evolution and response to changing conditions is of critical importance. Large herbivores provide a unique angle through which to evaluate changing tropical ecosystems, as they can directly moderate plant diversity and abundance, amount of available habitat for other organisms, and ecosystem services (Desbiez, et al., 2009, Beck et al., 2016, Bello et al., 2015). Due to increased land-cover change and fragmentation, the spatial configuration and quality of available habitats in the tropics are changing (Laurance, et al., 2014) and the impacts of large herbivores on the remaining ecosystems may be changing as a result.
My research incorporates aspects of movement ecology, landscape ecology, and computer modeling to evaluate the way in which large herbivores utilize their habitat, as well as how these patterns may vary with fragmentation. In particular I am interested in how diet and movement of large herbivores influence the ecosystem as well as a species' ability to survive changing environmental conditions. Current research projects center around white-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari), as they are ecosystem engineers and constitute one of the largest vertebrate biomasses of the Neotropics. In addition, they travel in large herds, bioturbate the soil, and act as apex seed and seedling predators and dispersers (Kiltie, 1981; Keuroghlian et al., 2004, 2009, Beck, 2005, 2006; Beck et al., 2010; Altrichter et al., 2012).
Current projects center around three main questions:
- How do peccary (Tayassuidae) diets vary over time and spatially throughout Neotropical biomes?
- How does fragmentation of a landscape influence the way large animals utilize their habitat?
- How do changes in large animals habitat use affect the landscape over time?
To address these questions, I couple stable isotope analyses, animal movement data, landscape metrics, and individual-based models. These research projects are currently being evaluated in the Brazilian Pantanal, Cerrado, and Atlantic Forest biomes with colleagues from Vanderbilt University , Universidade Estadual Paulista -- LEEC , Universidade Estadual Paulista -- LaBiC , and the Wildlife Conservation Society, Brazil.