Research interests and projects
My research has mainly been on large carnivore ecology in Africa, and has largely focused on the leopard. I am especially interested in projects that are ecology based, have some sort of conservation implications, and that use innovative technology to advance what we know. Below you'll find a more detailed look at my research interests, the main projects that I am currently involved in, research funders, and current affiliations.
Ecology is the study of how living things interact with their environment, including other organisms and the physical landscape. It is, for example, interested in questions such as, how much can animals adapt their behaviours to cope with changing conditions; why do species use space the way they do; and what are the consequences of competition between coexisting species?
My research so far has mostly involved looking at competition between large African carnivores and different questions around leopard ecology. This research has mainly focused on how competition with other predators (e.g. lions and wild dogs) impacts the behaviour and space-use of leopards. But, I am interested in a wide range of topics, including questions around the impact that humans are having on species' behaviours and survival.
Ecology can aid the conservation of species in a number of ways, including by informing on what resources species need to survive; describing the impacts humans have on the ability of species to survive; and by informing human management decisions, such as those around modifying landscapes or on hunting regulations.
I am interested in a range of conservation topics, including understanding how competition between competitors can impact their ability to coexist within the same areas and how human impacts on the environment might change this balance. For example, as species become restricted to smaller protected areas, will competition with other species impact their ability to survive? From a more applied perspective, I am very interested in the role that citizen-science and technology can play in helping to monitor and conserve species (see 'current projects' below).
Technology is changing the way that we study animals in their natural environments. For example, camera traps across landscapes can be used to investigate the space-use of animals over large spatial scales; GPS radio collars are being used to gain fine-scale insights into animal behaviours; and drones are being increasingly used for a number of innovative projects, such as collecting whale sneezes for DNA analyses.
I am particularly interested in conservation and/or ecology projects that are using novel technologies to push the boundaries on what questions we can ask. Most of my work to date has involved the use of wildlife radio collars to collect high-resolution data on how carnivores are interacting with their environments, but I am also interested in all technologies with ecology and conservation applications, particularly those that are open-source.
Using citizen-science and technology for species monitoring
We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis. Yet the resources we have for species conservation are limited and split amongst many competing priorities. Wildlife monitoring can help identify the species and areas in most need of attention, allowing for effective allocation of resources. Unfortunately, it is also often very expensive - placing us in a Catch-22 situation. My recent research has shown that for some species and areas, data from tourist photographs can provide wildlife surveying data comparable to more commonly used methods, but at a fraction of the cost. As part of a Fulbright Scholarship, I am working to develop a framework to expand this tourist data-collection approach across multiple safari camps in Botswana. As part of this work, I am also investigating additional ways to reduce the costs of data processing and analyses using online citizen-scientists and artificial intelligence.
Leopard ecology within the African large predator guild
Across much of their range in Africa, leopards coexist alongside other members of the African large predator guild: lion, spotted hyaena, African wild dog, and cheetah. Competition amongst these species is often fierce and encounters can end in injury or death for smaller members. Yet is only relatively recently, largely thanks to improvements in wildlife technologies, that we have begun to understand interactions between some of these species in any great detail. My research to date has largely focused on using custom GPS radio collars to collect fine-scale data on the space-use and movement of leopards in the Okavango Delta. By analysing such data alongside data from other sources, such as habitat maps from satellites and GPS locations from other carnivores, I am particularly interested in understanding the interactions between leopards and their competitors; the behavioural strategies they use to coexist; and features of the environment that aid their coexistence.
Current and past project funders
The Explorers Club
The Alice McCosh Trust
Wilderness Wildlife Trust