After participating in a wide variety of conservation and ecology projects in the years leading up to graduate school, I feel like I’ve found the perfect home in the Applied Biodiversity Science-IGERT program. Its focus on bridging natural and social science as well as theoretical and applied conservation scholarship is an ideal fit for my interdisciplinary research interests.
After graduating with a BA in Biology and History from Rice University in 2004, I spent four years working on a number of mammalian carnivore research and conservation projects. These projects included a carnivore survey with the USFS in the Sierra Nevada, a canid ecology research study in South Africa, and the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme in southern Ethiopia. These experiences cemented my passion and interest in working with mammalian carnivores, while also opening my eyes to the importance of understanding the social and political issues involved in conservation. As a PhD student in the ABS program, I have had the opportunity to combine these two interests by designing an interdisciplinary project focused on human-carnivore conflict in southern Africa.
My research focuses on how national and international policies shape local people’s interactions with and attitudes towards large predators. With that goal in mind, my doctoral dissertation research combines methods from social science and behavioral ecology to investigate a social-ecological system made up of people, livestock, and wildlife in northern Botswana. Specifically, I am comparing 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, I hope to accomplish three specific objectives: 1) evaluate how livelihood strategies shape human-predator relationships, 2) investigate the difference in behavior of lions and spotted hyenas in these two areas, and 3) assess the linkages between local human-predator relationships, national land-use policies, and the behavior of large predators. I am grateful that the ABS program has given me 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.