My interdisciplinary research bridges the natural and social sciences to address human interactions with the environment. I am particularly interested in human-wildlife conflict and endangered species conservation. My current research addresses tiger and large mammal conservation in Asia and the United States. I have published over 20 scholarly articles and book chapters and am currently co-editing Tigers of the World: The Biology, Politics and Conservation of Panthera tigris.
The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is the most critically endangered of the existing recognized tiger subspecies and is one of the world’s most imperiled large carnivores. All that is left of this subspecies is approximately 70 tigers, all except three in Chinese zoos. Since 2001 I have been involved with the South China Tiger Office (formerly South China Tiger Protection Program), a collaboration among the National Wildlife Research And Development Center of the State Forestry Administration (SFA) of the People’s Republic of China, the Minnesota Zoo, with support from Colby College. In 2005, SFA appointed the South China Tiger Advisory Office to provide technical and financial support for the Government of China’s long-term efforts to restore tigers to wilderness areas. Over the next few years, this collaboration will include activities such as recovery site suitability studies, habitat linkage analysis, GIS-based tiger recovery zone modeling, habitat/prey restoration studies and implementation, sociological assessments, threats analysis, habitat protection and anti-poaching training, transfer of knowledge and technology, awareness campaign and a community- based approach to secure a future for the South China tiger in the wild. Several Colby Environmental Studies students have helped to prepare satellite imagery and GIS maps for this project.
Sample scholarship related to the South China tiger project:
Since 2001 I have collaborated with the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and a diverse group of researchers to develop new tools to explore the human dimension of endangered species conservation and policy that came out of my involvement as the principal investigator on a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Biocomplexity in the Environment initiative. This research group is interested in bringing together a specialists in the natural and social sciences in order to promote efforts to enhance risk assessment models that explicitly incorporate quantitative data on human population dynamics and associated processes.
A central theme of our research focused on (i) the difficulties often encountered in identifying and securing diverse bodies of expertise and information that is necessary to adequately address complex species conservation issues; and (ii) the development of quantitative simulation modeling tools that could explicitly link these datasets as a way to gain deeper insight into these issues. To address these challenges, we are exploring a “meta-modeling” approach where computational links are constructed between discipline-specific models already in existence. In this approach, each model can function as a powerful stand-alone program, but interaction between applications is achieved by passing data structures describing the state of the system between programs. A goal of this effort is to improve science-based capabilities for decision making by scientists, natural resource managers, and policy makers addressing environmental problems in general, and focusing on biodiversity risk assessment in particular.
Sample scholarship related to the biocomplexity project:
Some of the largest remaining blocks of contiguous forest—and thus potential large carnivore habitat—east of the Mississippi River occur in Maine. Large carnivores were once widespread in the eastern forests of North America, but habitat reduction and modification coupled with intensive harvest of carnivores and their prey resulted in a rapid depopulation of carnivores in the Northeast. I am working with students and collaborating with Professor Russ Cole to better understand the history and potential future of large carnivores in Maine, with a particular focus on wolves and human-wildlife conflict.
I am involved in several areas of research related to human-wildlife conflict. I have studied tiger-human conflict in Indonesia, examined human injuries and deaths from captive tigers (including those in private ownership), and explored the benefits and challenges of compensation schemes for supporting wildlife conservation.
Sample scholarship related to my human-wildlife conflict projects:
I and my students are involved in a wide range of other projects as well. I am involved in developing approaches to link teaching and research. I am involved with a variety of civic engagement and service projects with students through course activities and internships (e.g., recently a student developed maps showing the impact of sea level rise on the coast of Maine, which was picked up by several newspapers, and another student developed maps for a local land trust). I have collaborated on projects related to the livestock-human-animal interface in Africa. Feel free to contact me if you have an interest in learning more about these and other projects.
Sample scholarship related to my teaching and other projects: