What’s the best way to count mountain goats in Idaho? How does hunter harvest impact white-tailed deer and mule deer populations in South Dakota? How many elk are there in Western Montana? Our research group investigates a range of questions on ungulate demographics and parameter estimation across the West. We work closely with collaborators in state wildlife management agencies to produce research products that are useful for management applications.
Demography of Kittlitz's Murrelet
The Kittlitz's murrelet is a rare alcid found in Alaska and eastern Russia. In the early 2000s, their populations started to show evidence of decline, sparking increased interest in the bird. We collaborate with ecologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service to research murrelet population ecology in Icy Bay, Alaska, where we investigate ecological questions about survival and reproduction and also monitor the population. We are also developing integrated population models – mathematical models that link multiple data sources to estimate population dynamics – to improve our understanding of murrelets and how to manage them.
Remote Camera Analysis
Remote cameras are a simple but powerful tool. We’re exploring innovative ways managers can combine remote cameras and mathematical models to better understand population demographics. Our research focuses on field design considerations and utilizes new approaches like space-to-event, which uses information in the timing and location of photos to estimate animal abundance. Trail cameras collect massive amounts of data, so we’re also creating new technology and software to help facilitate data management.
Humpback Whale Collision Avoidance
Come summer, Glacier Bay National Park is a hotspot for humpback whale feeding aggregations. It’s also a popular destination for big cruise ships; about 1 million passengers visited Alaska in 2010 aboard 28 different cruise ships. Not surprisingly, a number of collisions between whales and ships have been documented in and near Glacier Bay. Reducing ship strikes is a pressing conservation concern and a prioritized management issue for a number of agencies within the U.S. and globally. Our lab, in collaboration with the National Park Service, works to better understand whale movement and detectability to develop ways of reducing whale-ship collisions.
Over the past few decades, statistical developments in ecology have developed rapidly. Many wildlife management agencies also possess large databases full of diverse wildlife data sets that are difficult to coalesce. We develop automated statistical software that helps wildlife managers explore this data, run analyses and generate reports that can aid in formulating management plans. This technology can help wildlife management agencies increase the utility of large data sets and reduce the amount of time required to complete those analyses, making the latest statistical concepts more accessible to mangers so they’re easy to use in day-to-day management decisions. Current development projects include ungulate population dynamics modeling, large-scale bird monitoring analyses and mountain lion spatial population modeling.