PHD RESEARCH ON BISON REINTRODUCTION
Bison reintroduction has the potential to restore grassland habitat for native birds and mammals. Yet, cattle abound as a large grazer across grassland landscapes. My research rests at the nexus of how bison and cattle shape habitat for birds and mammals in the shortgrass prairies of Colorado and New Mexico. My goals involve understanding if bison reintroduction helps restore habitat for grassland birds and mammals, and whether bison and cattle serve the same role in prairies. To study how bison and cattle influence birds and mammals, I collected data at bison-grazed, cattle-grazed, and reference sites without cattle or bison. At each site, I conducted bird point count surveys, set up wildlife camera traps, and sampled vegetation at each point count and wildlife camera.
Social Science research
In addition to studying the ecological effects of bison reintroduction, I am also interested in how reintroducing bison across their native range in North America can help restore human connections to grasslands. Generating human interest in grassland conservation is extremely important to saving this threatened ecosystem. To study how bison shape visitor experiences to a grassland, my colleagues and I surveyed visitors to a grassland recreation site in Northern Colorado before and after bison reintroduction to the area. We asked participants to rank how connected they felt to the grassland area (before and after the reintroduction) and followed up with asking if and why the grassland was important to them.
For my Master's research (Colorado State University), I studied how human observers affected Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) time budgets during their spring migration to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Colorado. To assess the effects of observers on cranes, I measured how much time cranes spent feeding and scanning for predators and compared this to the number of visitors watching them at observation areas on the national wildlife refuge. This research was recently published in Southwestern Naturalist, which you can access here: 10.1894/SWNAT-D-16-00074.1