Assessing factors that affect the spatial distribution and persistence of swift fox populations
We are investigating how landscape composition (e.g., CRP, agriculture, native prairie, road density) influences the spatial distribution of swift fox populations on the eastern fringes of their geographic range. Additionally, we are assessing the relative importance of intraguild competition and climate gradients (e.g., precipitation) for structuring swift fox populations. Ty Werdel (a new Ph.D. student in our lab), along with two full-time technicians, will be conducting camera-trapping surveys across the western portion of Kansas to start answering these questions in 2018.
Quantifying the effects of invasive-hybrid cattail (T. x glauca) expansions on native wetland biodiversity
Invasive-hybrid cattails (T. x glauca) are expanding their populations across wetlands in North America. These cattails displace most native wetland vegetation and expand in denser stands than both broadleaf (Typha latifolia) and narrowleaf (Typha angustifolia) species. Although the effects of T. x glauca on native wetland vegetation and wetland structure are clear, little is known about potential effects of T. x glauca expansions on wetland-obligate wildlife. Together with Voyageurs National Park, we are assessing how semiaquatic mammals (e.g., muskrat, mink, and otter), crayfish, and birds (e.g., waterbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds) are affected by encroaching T. x glauca in the boundary waters of northern Minnesota, USA.
Investigating how landscape composition and intraguild competition structure carnivore communities
Conversion of natural landscapes to urban habitats is a persistent threat to many native wildlife species. Carnivores are particularly sensitive to this novel landscape change because of their trophic level and relatively large home-range sizes. We are investigating how carnivore communities in the Flint Hills ecoregion (one of the last remaining tall-grass habitats in North America) are affected by expanding urban land use. Additionally, we are interested in how expanding coyote (Canis latrans) populations (the apex predator in this region) affect habitat occupancy dynamics of mesopredators (e.g., red and gray fox, badger, bobcat, feral cats, striped skunks) in these rapidly changing landscapes. Our work in the Flint Hills also supports the Urban Wildlife Information Network in Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois.
Inferring population dynamics from wildlife harvest data
State and Federal wildlife agencies often rely on annual harvest data to make inferences about relative changes in species-specific population abundances. However, these data are often influenced by outside factors that may affect hunter or trapper participation and can potentially bias these datasets. We have been examining long-term hunter and trapper harvest data to identify factors affecting annual harvest reports and using this information to help us infer changes in population abundances of commonly harvested species.
Determining factors that affect hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3)
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is reliant on the contributions of hunters to fund and support wildlife conservation and management efforts across the continent. Through license (e.g., Federal duck stamp, state habitat stamps) and equipment (e.g., ammunition, archery supplies, firearms) purchases, hunters provide millions of dollars annually to these efforts. However, hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) rates have been drastically declining in recent decades and these losses in hunter participation will likely have an enormous impact on future funding for wildlife conservation. Along with academic and non-academic colleagues at other institutions across the United States, we are working towards finding ways to effectively reverse these trends.