Research in the Population Ecology and Wildlife Management lab aims to understand how individual variation, life histories, disease, and climate and land-use change contribute to regulating vital rates, population dynamics, and the distribution of species. Much of this work involves intensive field work and parameter estimation using retrospective techniques such as capture-recapture modeling or prospective techniques using simulations and matrix models. Recently, the lab focus has expanded to include the control of invasive vertebrates. Our research interfaces basic and applied science and can be divided into three primary foci:
1) Long-term monitoring and population parameter estimation. Because most species and individuals of wild populations are detected imperfectly, we use information-theoretic approaches and a variety of sampling, methodological, and statistical methods such as capture-recapture, occupancy, and radio telemetry to account for imperfect detection and model selection uncertainty. Although we routinely study reptiles, we apply these approaches more generally to wildlife for inference in basic science and problem solving in wildlife management.
2) Informing the conservation and management of threatened and invasive species. The management of threatened and invasive species can be viewed as alternate sides of the same coin. In both instances, we often use statistical models to estimate population parameters, identify variables important for regulating population dynamics, and work with stakeholders to develop management strategies. For threatened species, our objective is to provide recommendations that will bolster populations by increasing vital rates such as survival or connectivity on the landscape. For invasive species, however, we evaluate the efficacy of control tools in eradicating or suppressing populations (e.g., decreases in survival and immigration rates) and for early detection of invasive species in novel environments.
3) Elucidating patterns and processes of herpetofaunal life history, demography, and distributions. Among vertebrates, research on the ecology and life history of herpetofauna lags relative to the number studies on mammals and birds. This research aims to fill gaps in our understanding of temperate and tropical species. Because of their cryptic nature and generally low densities, the demography and life history of most herpetofauna are poorly understood. Tropical reptiles and amphibians are even less studied than their temperate counterparts, despite species richness and endemism being highest in the tropics. Tropical islands support fewer species than their mainland surrogates, but their population densities are often much higher, making them amenable to life history, demography, and distribution studies using modern statistical methods and sampling designs. Consequently, island studies of tropical species can provide invaluable and otherwise unattainable insights into these species.