I’ve been fortunate in my research career to visit and interact with a variety of people from different countries, including Chad, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda. In addition, my home research institutions were located in some fantastic locations, including the foothills of the Rocky Mountains (amazing hiking and fishing!) and the rocky shoreline in Lil’ Rhody (15 minutes from a point break, how could you go wrong!). All have made for some amazing opportunities!
My doctoral work at Colorado State University consisted of studying three resident populations of white-bearded wildebeest in Kenya. In 2010, we fit thirty-six wildebeest with GPS-enabled tracking collars, the largest GPS study ever conducted on the movement of wildebeest to date. Field work consisted of tracking individual animals across three landscapes in southern Kenya (the Athi-Kapuatiei Plains, the Loita Plains, and the Amboseli Basin). Once animals were located, I established vegetation plots with two very skilled field assistants to evaluate the quality of habitat and the amount of anthropogenic disturbance. In addition, we collected fecal samples from a random sample of the population to estimate hormonal stress levels of each population.
Work on the ground was tedious and time consuming, due in part to the distance between each of my study areas. The work, however, was also very rewarding. During this time on the ground, I was able to interact with a number of amazing individuals, lived in a tent for months, tried a few of the local delicacies (sour milk…..horrible stuff), and observed a variety of wildlife including chameleons, elephants, leopards, and warthogs. Additional information on day to day activities can be viewed on gnu2move.
I continue to work in Kenya as a Research Ecologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Ongoing studies include research on wildebeest in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem with colleagues at the University of Glasgow and the University of California – Santa Barbara. We are also starting studies on reticulated giraffe in Laikipia County with colleagues from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and San Diego Zoo Global. I hope to continue working in Kenya, building collaborations with individuals and organizations, well into the future.
Papua New Guinea
My research career started as a master’s student at University of Rhode Island. As a graduate student in the Department of Natural Resources Science and a member of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP), I conducted field work on the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea. With colleagues, we conducted the first-ever GPS tracking study on endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroos. Our daily routine consisted of tracking collared individuals with radio-telemetry equipment. Once located (at times a lengthy and frustrating affair), we collected habitat variables (e.g., tree species and height, understory vegetation) to relate to the animals position. These data served as inputs for habitat selection models and a remotely sensed vegetation classification.
I’m very proud of the work I conducted as part of the TKCP team. The TKCP continues to conduct ground-breaking research in Papua New Guinea, resulting in improved human livelihoods and the establishment of the first-ever nationally-recognized conservation area within the nation’s borders.