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 the impacts of competition with other predators (e.g. lions and wild dogs) on the behaviour and space-use of leopards. But I am interested in a wide range of topics including, questions such as 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; the impacts humans have on their ability to survive; and consequently informing human management decisions, such as land conversion or 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 and other species' behaviours. 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 below).
Technology is changing the way that we can study animals in their natural environments. For example, camera traps across landscapes can be used to investigate the space-use and behaviour of animals over large spatial scales. GPS radio collars are being used to understand how species interact with one another; and drones are being used to collect 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 to improve 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 effective allocation of resources, but it is itself often very expensive - placing us in a Catch-22 situation. Recently published 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 that is a fraction of the cost to implement. As part of a Fulbright Scholarship, I am working to develop a framework to expand this tourist data-collection framework across multiple safari camps in Botswana and apply other citizen-science and AI approaches to further reduce the costs of data processing and analyses.
Leopard ecology within the large African predator guild
My research has to date has largely focused on using custom GPS radio collars to capture 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 data from satellites and GPS data from other carnivores, I am particularly interested in understanding the interactions between leopards and their competitors; the strategies they use to coexist; and features of the environment that enable coexistence.