Advisor: Lisette Waits
Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences
My research investigates the ecology and interactions of kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis) and coyotes (Canis latrans) at the U.S Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in western Utah. In Utah, kit foxes are classified as a species of concern by both the Department of Defense and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and as a sensitive species by the Bureau of Land Management. While the current status of kit fox populations across Utah is unclear, populations are believed to be declining in part due to changes to the landscape that have facilitated range expansions by coyotes, a dominant intraguild predator/competitor. Like other species that occur at low densities and are wide-ranging, kit foxes are notoriously difficult to monitor with common approaches (e.g., telemetry, capture-recapture, etc.), which can be financially and logistically difficult to implement over large spatial and temporal scales.
Employing non-invasive genetic sampling techniques within a capture-recapture (NGS-CR) framework, I am investigating population demographics (i.e., abundance, survival, reproduction, and emigration/immigration) for both kit foxes and coyotes. I will evaluate the value of NGS-CR as a viable, long-term inventory and monitoring approach by comparing the cost of implementation and the number of parameters estimated with those collected by a collaborative project that is utilizing traditional capture-recapture, radio-telemetry, and scat deposition survey approaches on the same species at the same study site. I also aim to investigate to the spatial distribution of kit foxes and coyotes by utilizing co-occurrence occupancy modeling approaches to test various hypotheses related competitive exclusion and the influence of habitat features (e.g., anthropogenic water) on kit fox and coyote distribution patterns. Genetic diversity measures will be used to assess population genetics of kit foxes and coyotes. Kit fox museum specimens will be used to assess temporal changes in genetic diversity and Ne, effective population size, from before and after anthropogenic water facilitated the expansion of the coyotes in the region.
My professional interests include research and management of imperiled, threatened, and endangered wildlife, with a particular interest in using mesocarnivores as model species to investigate ecological processes. I am interested in landscape genetics, spatial ecology, urban ecology, and the development and use of novel approaches in ecological investigations.