Congratulations to Erin Buchholtz and Lauren Redmore on the recent publication of their paper titled “Temporal partitioning and overlapping use of a shared natural resource by people and elephants”. The paper, co-authored with Dr. Amanda Stronza, Dr. Lee Fitzgerald, Anna Songhurst, and Graham McCulloch is based on research that was funded by an ABS CMRA grant. You can read the article here.
ABS Student Erin Buchholtz, from the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Program was selected to attend the AniMove Summer School this September. AniMove is a rigorous 2-week course on animal movement modeling hosted by the Max Planck Institute in Radolfzell, Germany (http://animove.org). Here’s what she has to say about her experience…
Saturday morning September 8th I found myself on the way to the airport to fly to Zurich. It would be Sunday afternoon (after two flights, two trains, and a bus) that I finally arrived in the tiny town of Radolfzell, Germany – the location of the 2018 AniMove course. I knew I was in the right place when I boarded the final bus with a group of women who were scientists from Australia, Brazil, and the US and who were studying bandicoots, manatees, deer, and sheep.
The next two weeks flew by. Each day was filled with lectures and often coding in R or using open-source software like QGIS. The instructors represented a variety of world-class scientists who volunteered their time to teach this course. We learned so much from them! Each lecture was well-prepared and delivered a concentrated dose of whatever cool science the instructor was working on – from modeling behavioral states to changing how we think of home ranges. These instructors truly dedicated themselves to the full course – they were always around and open to discussing everything from code, to theory, to careers, and everything in between. During the day we also had guest speakers. We heard about the inspiring and cutting-edge science done by Dr. Iain Couzin on collective movement as well as the ICARUS initiative for satellite tracking animals from Dr. Martin Wikelski. I was surprised to find out my undergraduate adviser Dr. Dan Rubenstein from Princeton University was also there, and he gave an engaging talk on why zebras have stripes! To put a cap on each full day, we also often had keynote speakers after dinner. These speakers, which included Drs. Francesca Cagnacci, Meg Crofoot, Maelle Salmon, Justin Calabrese, and Silke Bauer spoke on everything from Open-source Science with R, to ongoing research on primate movements, to bird and deer migration. Each instructor, speaker, and student brought something unique to the course and made it an incredible experience.
A major part of the course was the ability to use your own data and work through different analyses with the assistance of instructors. Part of my dissertation relies on data from GPS collars, and these are what I analyzed at AniMove. A big part of elephant conservation is understanding where they move and why, and how we can try to reduce negative interactions between people and elephants. At AniMove, I had the opportunity to work on analyses to try and address the question of where elephants move along with guidance and help from the AniMove instructors. Also, I can’t believe what an amazing intellectual and supportive space it was to be in the Max Planck Institute, in a room full of scientists all working on interesting and exciting research!
I first heard about AniMove at a conference in 2016 when a scientist from the Smithsonian recommended I apply for it. I’m so glad that I did. It was an invaluable learning experience, and it really advanced my understanding as well as technical abilities for addressing animal movement in my research. A massive thanks to instructors Drs. Kamran Safi, Martin Wegmann, Chris Fleming, Chloe Bracis, Bjorn Reineking, Justin Calabrese, and Benjamin Leutner (plus others!) for hosting such an interactive, positive, learning experience.
Former ABS Student, Dr. Emma Gómez Ruiz received one of five Fellowships for Women in Science L’Oreal-Unesco-Conacyt-AMC in Mexico for her research on the management and conservation of pollinating bats and their role in the fragile arid and semi-arid ecosystems of Coahuila and Nuevo León. Learn more about Emma’s research in the video below. Congratulations Emma!
Former ABS student, Nick Jacobsen, received his PhD in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences in May 2017. His research focused on how national and international policies shape local people’s interactions with and attitudes towards large predators. With that goal in mind, his doctoral dissertation research combined methods from social science and behavioral ecology to investigate a social-ecological system made up of people, livestock, and wildlife in northern Botswana. Specifically, he compared two neighboring villages that have drastically different land use strategies. One falls within a Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) area, and therefore participates in a co-managed wildlife tourism operation. The other falls outside of the CBNRM zone, and relies primarily on livestock production and subsistence agriculture. By comparing social and ecological data from these two villages, Jacobsen focused on three specific objectives: 1) evaluate how livelihood strategies shape human-predator relationships, 2) investigate the difference in behavior of lions in these two areas, and 3) assess the linkages between local human-predator relationships, national land-use policies, and the behavior of large predators. He found that for local farmers, the costs and benefits they received from wildlife combined with underlying cultural factors to inform their attitudes and behaviors towards lions and other predators. Land-use policies set by the government have complex and sometimes unintended impacts on costs and benefits, and therefore affect the potential for people to coexist with wildlife.
Nick is grateful that the ABS program gave him the opportunity to design such a project while also providing the framework for fostering numerous collaborations with local and national institutions interested in similar issues. He is currently employed as a lecturer at Texas A&M University in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Science.
Erin Buchholtz and Lauren Redmore were awarded the ABS Collaborative Multidisciplinary Research Award for their proposed research project, “Sharing the Savanna: Spatio-temporal patterns of hardwood resource utilization by humans and elephants in northern Botswana”. Human-elephant conflict is a central challenge to conservation with real and lasting consequences to elephants and human lives and livelihoods. The Okavango Panhandle in northern Botswana, where this research will take place, exemplifies the challenges of coexistence in social-ecological systems as elephants live amongst human settlements. Broad-scale analyses in the past have characterized landscape-scale elephant movement patterns, and socio-economic surveys and other qualitative studies have captured the challenges for people who live with elephants, but few have been able to capture the interconnected patterns of elephant and human resource-use.
Buchholtz and Redmore will employ interdisciplinary methods and analyses from natural and social sciences. Their research will focus on hardwood trees as a way to study the demands for natural resources in this social-ecological system. Elephants rely on hardwood trees for browse during the dry season, pulling down trees and branches which are then used by people for firewood. The research hypothesis is that spatial and/or temporal niche partitioning allows humans and elephants to coexist and minimize negative interactions (conflict) during utilization of hardwood resources. Combining both human and elephant movements in a single study to characterize the interactions between the two species is novel, exemplifying the interdisciplinary and collaborative approach which the Applied Biodiversity Science program seeks to support with this award. Understanding these interactions will not only provide insight into the interspecific use of resources in the landscape, but may also provide key information for developing conflict-mitigation strategies.
With the funding from the award and the Fulbright US Student Program, Buchholtz and Redmore will carry out this project in Botswana in January 2018 as well as present their work at the international Pathways Africa Conference in Namibia. They represent the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Program and the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences, respectively, and are also both Student Research Fellows with the Ecoexist Project (www.ecoexistproject.org).