Research Assistant Professor
Division of Forestry and Natural Resources
Ph.D. 2003, Arizona State University
M.S. 1994, University of Wyoming
B.A. 1991, Oberlin College
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My research interests focus wildlife conservation ecology and the interaction between wildlife and the role of wildlife in natural systems. Much of my work is built around utilization of novel technologies and approaches to wildlife ecology. In particular, I was part of a team that developed the first non-invasive monitoring scheme for any avian species, I have been involved in development of novel high-frequency GPS-GSM telemetry systems for tracking migratory birds, and I am interested in development of camera trapping methodologies for avian species. I am also a co-founder of a local nonprofit bird conservation, education and rehabilitation center, the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia (ACCA).
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I've got lots of projects with grad students and other collaborators. Most are described in the pages on this website. Some of them include:
1. Understanding and mitigating potential impacts of development of wind energy on migratory birds of prey.
The future of the US economy, our national security, and our environmental quality all depend on decreasing our reliance on foreign oil and on fossil fuels. An essential component of decreasing this reliance is the development of alternative energy sources. Wind power is among the most important alternative energy sources currently available, and the mid-Atlantic region is a primary focus for wind power development. In addition to being important to the development of wind power, the mid-Atlantic region also supports a small and geographically distinct eastern population of North America's golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). These birds breed in northeastern Canada and winter in the southern Appalachians, and the entire migratory population passes through this region twice each year. Thus, because the fate of these rare birds may depend on responsible management of the habitat they use it is critical to use research to identify ways to mitigate prospective impacts on this and similar raptor species. The goal of this project is to develop high-resolution spatial data of migration corridors of and habitat use by eastern golden eagles in regions of high potential for wind development. Because golden eagles are an important "umbrella" for other birds, especially other raptors, this project allows wind development while also protecting a suite of potentially impacted species. For more information on this project, follow this link to the page describing this project.
2. Non-invasive ecology, monitoring and conservation of raptors
Apex predators are often sensitive indicators of environmental health and it is therefore important to track the dynamics of their populations. Unfortunately, many such species are difficult or impossible to monitor using conventional traditional techniques despite the need for baseline demographic data on their populations. Non-invasive genetic monitoring is a rapidly emerging field of great importance to conservation biology and it presents special opportunity to address this problem. Together with collaborators in evolutionary genetics, we are developing non-invasive genetic techniques to evaluate the demographics of apex predators and therefore more accurately interpret the relationships between these trends and environmental health. We were the first to use these techniques, developing them originally for Eastern Imperial Eagles (Aquila heliaca) at the Naurzum Zapovednik in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Our current goals in central Asia are to develop and apply these same non-invasive genetic techniques for ecological study, monitoring and evaluation of white-tailed sea eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) and red-footed falcons (Falco vespertinus). For each species we develop a mechanism for collecting genetic samples and combine the data they provide with those from traditional monitoring to comprehensively evaluate demographics from both species. Outside of the scientific realm, other critical goals are to build our cross-cultural partnerships, train students in this program (2-4 US and Kazakhstani students are expected), and support a burgeoning Kazakhstani university field research station. Importantly, our research is designed to serve as a foundation on which we can build further international collaborative studies on these and other related species and train still more graduate students from both countries.
I am also applying many of these same non-invasive techniques developed in central Asia for demographic study here in the USA and elsewhere. In particular, this work has focused on conservation of griffon vultures in central and south Asia (Kazakhstan and Cambodia) as well as eagles and vultures in North America. For more details on each of these projects, follow the links to the page describing these projects.