Briana Abrahms, PhD Candidate, University of California-Berkeley (Supervisor: Dr. Justin Brashares)
As global change leads to increasingly rapid habitat alteration, research advancing our understanding of animal movement is needed to aid conservation planning. Despite a wide theoretical literature on movement processes, little empirical work has assessed how animal space use and movements respond to dynamic environments. This gap is problematic, as animal movement is likely shaped by numerous dynamic processes. For example, dramatic seasonal fluctuations in the Okavango Delta’s hydrography influence the movement patterns of resident wildlife populations.
To address this gap, my research examines the movement responses of African wild dogs (AWDs) to dynamic processes at multiple scales; specifically, I investigate the roles of individual behavior, interspecific interactions, and changes in the physical environment on AWD movement.
This work aims to (a) determine whether incorporating dynamic processes in movement modeling improves our ability to capture the mechanisms and patterns of observed movement, and (b) advance the biological grounding of methods used in conservation planning. This research will allow us to better understand the internal and external processes that shape the movements of large carnivores. In addition, by advancing our understanding of animal movement, this work will contribute to the burgeoning field of connectivity science. Popular techniques for assessing landscape connectivity and delineating wildlife corridors rely on determining how and where landscapes impede animal movement; however, these methods could be more effective if integrated with fundamental behavioral and ecological understanding of movement processes. This, in turn, can help conservation practitioners identify important areas on the landscape for maintaining habitat connectivity for wide-ranging carnivores.
This project is sponsored by BPCT, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, Riverbanks Zoo, Explorer’s Club, and Wilderness Wildlife Trust