Current Lab Members
My research interests focus on development and application of quantitative methods to ecological problems, primarily in wildlife population dynamics. I strive to connect ecological theory to wildlife management problems and in doing so improve wildlife management and test ecological theory. My work crosses a broad spectrum of taxa from rare seabirds to hunted ungulates. My current projects include ungulate and grouse population dynamics modeling, whale collision avoidance, and software development.
Prior to joining UM, I served as Biometrician for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for more than five years. In that role I provided statistical support to both research and management biologists. I developed an understanding of the types of quantitative support wildlife management agencies need and how to convey those ideas to wildlife managers. I also work closely with wildlife management agencies to develop computer software that brings the forefront of quantitative methods to the fingertips of wildlife managers.
In my free time, I enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and skiing. There’s nothing like a flushing grouse or rising trout to help me think more clearly about complicated statistical problems.
Josh Nowak, Research Scientist
I am interested in bringing cutting edge statistical tools to everyday wildlife management. Data are hard earned, expensive and too often scarce. Through the development and application of statistical tools we can enhance the quantity and quality of information available to wildlife managers. However, statistical jargon and complexity often create a gap between those with mud on their boots and those with big computers. To increase the accessibility and utility of these tools I also create easy to use web interfaces. The web interfaces provide wildlife managers with a suite of high performance statistical models that make most of data. Through the websites managers can analyze data in real-time, generate reports, plots and tables of model results. I have also developed tools for data exploration that, for example, allow a manager to create complex queries of their data with only a few clicks of the mouse. In the future, I plan to expand development of web based tools available to managers and refine the underlying demographic and integrated population models.
Sara H. Williams, PhD student
I am interested mammalian ecology and conservation. My research efforts have focused on the use of modeling techniques to obtain quantitative ecological data and how this knowledge can inform conservation and management of wildlife populations. I am especially interested in the ways that mammals are affected by human actions and development, and how to mitigate harmful consequences of these interactions. I completed a master’s degree at the University of Vermont, during which I investigated the occurrence of meso-carnivores in forest fragments situated in an agricultural landscape. In the Lukacs lab, I am working on a research project funded by the National Park Service that examines humpback whale and cruise ship encounters in Glacier Bay National Park.
Charles Henderson, PhD student
My research interests center on the ecology of mammals and applying quantitative methods to management issues. I am interested in developing criteria that will help wildlife managers prioritize which information to collect concerning their populations and questions of interest. I am also interested in assessing the costs and benefits of different data collection techniques. My previous research focused on predicting migration in a white-tailed deer population based on home range attributes and quantifying the effects of this decision on survival and resource use. I am looking forward to collaborating with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to develop cost effective methods for monitoring and estimating ungulate populations.
Anna Moeller, MS Student
I am interested in wildlife ecology and in developing practical tools for use in wildlife management. My current research is focused on developing a camera trap survey method to estimate elk occupancy and abundance in different habitat types. In collaboration with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, I am looking into combining camera trapping with techniques like radio telemetry and aerial surveys to achieve the most cost-effective abundance surveys. Ungulate abundance information from this study will be used to inform management decisions and population dynamics models. Prior to coming to University of Montana, I received a B.S. in Biology from University of Puget Sound.
Jenny Helm, MS Student
My research interests revolve around the use and development of quantitative tools to inform wildlife conservation and management decisions. I became interested in studying human-wildlife interaction while conducting fieldwork in Namibia, and this interest was reinforced during a field season spent studying seabird abundance and distribution around the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. I received my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a concentration in Conservation Biology from Colby College. In the Lukacs lab, I am looking forward to collaborating with the National Park Service to study humpback whale and cruise ship dynamics in Glacier Bay National Park.
Kelsey Wellington, MS Student
My research interests focus on blending mammalian ecology with quantitative research to develop effective, practical population management tools and practices. My current research, which is partnered with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, aims to develop a cost-effective method of estimation wolf population size using camera traps. I first became interested in using remote cameras to study wildlife through my undergraduate research at the University of New Hampshire, where I earned a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology. Since graduating in 2013, I have worked with a variety of taxa both at home and abroad, and I am looking forward to working in the Lukacs lab and collaborating with IDFG on this project.