I am an interdisciplinary scholar studying the landscapes that people and wildlife share. I use methods from both the social and ecological sciences to understand how human beliefs and behaviors materialize on the landscape, what this means for the viability of wildlife – especially large carnivores – and the ecosystems that depend on them, and how we might approach these challenges in ways that ensure just outcomes for diverse constituents. This research relies equally on quantitative analytical methods and on embedded dialogues with stakeholders. While deeply grounded in ecological and social theories, my research focuses on applied problems with immediate relevance to policy and management.
Risk perceptions and wildlife
Human perceptions and attitudes about risk play complex roles in our relationships with wildlife. Risk perceptions may or may not mirror the measurable consequences of sharing space with wildlife, but they nevertheless influence human behavior and decision-making in ways that profoundly affect the landscape itself as well as management and policy. I combine ecological and sociological approaches to characterizing risks in landscapes that humans and wildlife share to improve predictions about human-wildlife conflicts, work toward resolving those conflicts, and engage stakeholders in research.
Currently, I use these methods in case studies of coyote-sheep predation and proposed grizzly bear reintroductions in California.
The socio-ecology of wildlife tolerance
Tremendous effort has been spent characterizing ecologically suitable habitats for wildlife species, but in many cases, human tolerance for wildlife is the most significant predictor of where and how long species may survive and thrive. This is especially true for large carnivores, whose wide ranges and adaptability often bring them into dangerous conflicts with people. Using surveys, archival material, interviews, and sociodemographic data, I create novel spatial models of habitat that incorporate human tolerance.
Currently, I use these methods to study habitat suitability and inform policy regarding the reintroduction and recovery of grizzly bears, wolves, puma, and elk in the western United States.
Fence ecology and policy
The total length of fences in the world could stretch the sun and back multiple times. Accompanying human activities for millennia, fences are one of the most ancient tools for negotiating human and wildlife spaces, and still one of the most popular. It is surprising then that we have a poor understanding of how fences affect ecology and society. My research has categorized and mapped the socio-ecological impacts of fences around the world, and I have worked to help develop a synthetic discipline of “fence ecology.”
Currently, I am involved in case studies on fences in the US and Kenya, and I advise multiple government agencies on wildlife-friendly fence policy.
Multi-dimensional environmental justice
Wildlife is rarely considered from a justice lens, yet wildlife management can create unequal risks for a range of stakeholders. At the same time, wildlife management also involves challenging questions and tradeoffs regarding justice for individual animals, species, and collectives. Novel theories in the field of Environmental Justice (EJ) offer powerful approaches for identifying the multiple claims of justice at stake in wildlife management. Drawing from theories in Critical and Indigenous EJ, I develop frameworks and conduct case studies examining wildlife management from an EJ perspective, and working toward just outcomes for a range of stakeholders, both human and beyond human.