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People

 

CURRENT STUDENTS
ADVISOR OR SUPERVISOR

 
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Jon Martin
2013-present
Master's Student
Project Title: Deer response to intensive forest management.


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Jon Martin's work seeks to understand the relationship between commerical timber harvest on Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) in Southeast Alaska. Forests are actively managed to promote the potential for young-growth timber using strategies such as pre-commercial thinning (PCT) that produce large amounts slash. Slash are large piles of the branches and stems created in the process of PCT. Martin's work uses DNA from deer pellets to identify the density of deer within different PCT treatments, while also identifying different slash characteristics. The purpose of this work is to balance timber productivity with deer density, and protect the Sitka Blacktail deer as an important subsistence resource for the community.


PROJECT PAGE


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Nils Pedersen
2014-present
Master's Student
Project Title: Optimizing a technique for detecting and monitoring polar bear dens in the arctic using unmanned aircraft systems


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Nils Pedersen's work uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to identify polar bear (Ursus maritimus) dens in winter. By using a FLIR thermal camera attached to the UAV, he searched for heat signatures beneath the snow. These signatures were confirmed as dens using a Karelian bear dog trained for the task. Pedersen's work is important for monitoring the location of bear den's and preventing human-bear conflict.

PROJECTS PAGE


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Helen Cold
2016-present
Master's Student
Project Title: Documenting and describing landscape disturbances influencing human access to wild resources: a community-based approach (working title)


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My graduate work involves attempting to define the biophysical characteristics and mechanisms of environmental disturbances influencing human access to ecosystem services in boreal Alaska

PROJECT PAGE


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Tessa Hasbrouck
2016-present
Master's Student
Project Title: Distribution of hunter groups and environmental effects on moose harvest in interior Alaska.


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Moose (Alces alces) is one of the most valuable wild game resources in Interior Alaska. Since 2015, 22 proposals have been submitted to the Alaska Board of Game (BOG) requesting changes in moose hunting regulations. Residents of rural indigenous communities have expressed concern that climate change and competition from non-local hunters are challenging local moose harvest opportunities. I collaborated with wildlife agencies and village tribal councils to co-design two studies to address local concerns. The first study assessed the spatial and temporal distribution of two hunter groups to capture the essence of conflict. The second study addressed changing environmental factors and their impacts on moose harvest.

PROJECT PAGE


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Scott Leorna
2016-present
Master's Student
Project Title: Caribou Research


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My research is focused on using a multidisciplinary approach to enhance public participation in human- wildlife management issues. I strive to develop research methods that facilitate a joint-cooperative effort from a broad audience (academics, wildlife managers, public interest groups, etc.) to advance knowledge and understanding of wildlife resources. Currently, I'm working on a citizen science caribou (Rangifer tarandus) project that provides an opportunity for hunting guides/transporters, wildlife viewing companies, other researchers, and the public to contribute their field experience and knowledge to the understanding of Central Arctic Caribou behavior and distribution. We've developed a phone app that is used to record characteristics of caribou in the field. We intend to use information gathered through this project to assess caribou distribution in areas readily accessible to hunters during the hunting season. We also conducted a hunter survey to document hunter perceptions of caribou trends and management. Our goal is to promote and facilitate participation from various stakeholder groups to enhance our understanding of human-wildlife interactions.

PROJECT PAGE


UNDERGRADUATE PROJECTS

 

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GRADUATE STUDENTS
COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

Masters Students
Matthew Sprau (2015-present)
Tara Callear (2015-present)

PhD Students
Sheri Coker (2015-present)
Matthew Rodgers (2015-present)


LAB ALUMNI
ADVISOR OR COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

PhD Students


 


Casey Brown
2016
PhD Student

Social-ecological drivers of resource selection and habitat use by moose (Alces alces) in Interior Alaska.

Affiliation: Committee member

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Abstract: Sustainably managing wildlife with diverse utilization values is one of the greatest challenges facing contemporary wildlife management. These challenges can be amplified under changing environmental and socio-economic conditions. In Alaska, boreal forest systems are experiencing rapid change as a result of climate warming. Alaska’s boreal region has warmed twice as rapidly as the global average, affecting a host of processes including an increase in wildfire frequency, extent, and severity. Wildfire is the most common ecological disturbance in the Alaskan boreal forest and an important driver of landscape heterogeneity, burning on average 1 to 2 million acres per year. Fire severity is a particularly important factor dictating the regeneration of deciduous species, and one that can influence the overall quality of habitat for herbivores, such as moose (Alces alces). However, the relationships between the availability and duration of biomass production and moose habitat selection are largely unknown. Additionally, the effects of fire on wildlife resources in Alaska can have important consequences for boreal social-ecological systems as well. Fire-related changes to the community composition of forest stands would likely affect the densities of species that human communities rely on for hunting and trapping. In Interior Alaska, where natural wildfire is the primary means of increased browse production for moose, managers may want to consider incorporating burns into management plans while paying particular attention to hunter accessibility. However, an increase in hunter activity into moose habitat could result in changes to moose distribution and activity patterns near trails and roads. To examine these questions I utilized telemetry data from 26 moose along with methods in spatial ecology, plant-animal interactions, resource selection and human dimensions of wildlife research to predict the influence of an ecological disturbance (fire) and an anthropogenic disturbance (hunter activity) on moose habitat use. I used dynamic Brownian bridge movement models (dBBMM) in conjunction with browse assessment surveys to examine how fire severity, via its control over vegetation composition, forage production and nutritional quality, affect habitat use patterns of moose across their seasonal home ranges and core use areas. To assess the effects of hunter activity on moose habitat use, I created fine-scale stepselection models to test whether habitat selection and movement patterns were affected by spatio-temporal variation in risk from hunting activity. Additionally, from August-October, I used a camera trap array to collect field data on human activity (off-road vehicles, automobiles, 4x4 trucks, dirt bikes, and hunters afoot) together with the RandomForests algorithm to create high-resolution hunter distribution models. Finally, to integrate my research within a socialecological framework, I examined the interactions between wildfire, forage production and hunter access on management scenarios overtime. In winter, moose preferred low-severity sites more than high and moderate-severity sites, but in summer, moose selected for high-severity sites. Forage biomass production ranged from 62 to 243 kg/ha/yr across all sites during winter within the Hajdukovich Creek Burn, but production and availability varied depending on fire severity and browse species. These results indicate that differing distributions of wildfire severity across a landscape can create a dynamic, mosaic of habitat patches that may optimize and extend the value of burns over time for moose. I found that while moose selected habitat closer to trails and roads, they also avoided areas with more hunting activity. Finally, my management scenarios provide a framework for managers to adapt goals and actions to changing conditions that can affect moose-hunter systems. I recommend that wildlife conservation and management decisions consider these methods as we seek to sustainably manage wildlife for future generations during a time of rapid socio-ecological change in Alaska.


 


Kim Jochum
2014
PhD Student

Applying a social‐ecological systems approach to human‐bear encounters across the pacific rim: advancing resilient human‐wildlife management strategies


Affiliation: Committee member

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Abstract: Wildlife management is challenged with addressing human resource needs while simultaneously conserving wildlife populations. Conflicts between humans and wildlife have increased across Northern countries with the expansion of human communities and environmental changes. Lack of information exists about reasons for such occurrences. This study explores adaptive capacity and resilience in coupled human-wildlife systems through the analysis of social and ecological factors contributing to perceptions of negative and positive human-bear (Ursus spp.) encounters. I first developed a theory to evaluate human perceptions and behaviors during human-wildlife encounters. Secondly I adopted an interdisciplinary framework to analyze human-bear encounters in urbanizing regions of south Sakhalin Island, Russian Far-East, and southcentral Alaska, USA. These case studies facilitate an analysis of perception development across spatial and social scales while incorporating approaches of both social and ecological sciences. Hunting, tourism and overall anthropogenic impacts are central to bear management, whereas cultural and social interests are perceived to not be considered in bear management decision-making across study regions. In Alaska, political interests are prevalent in bear management, whereas on Sakhalin, economic interests, including illegal animal trade and poaching prevail. Across study regions the perception of an encounter with a bear was dependent on the socio-economic situation of the individual having the encounter. The higher a person's socio-economic status was, the higher was their probability to perceive bear encounters as positive. Further, spatial and social scales across which perceptions vary are identified. Scales include urban-non-urban areas, wildland-urban interfaces, and a recreation-subsistence interest divide. Outside of urban areas, people's interests in recreation versus subsistence affect their perceptions toward bear encounters. Subsistence collectors of fish, game or plants are more likely to have negative encounters. Within urban areas, increased experience with encountering bears and length of residency are associated with positive encounters, whereas closeness to residences while not in sheltered environments increases negative encounters. These findings constitute spatial and social barriers and benefits to individualistic perception formation during human-bear encounters. Their identification advances resilience in researched human-wildlife systems and helps us to understand the adaptive capacities within these communities. The successful spatially-explicit integration of social and ecological variables promotes the opportunities for integrating human dimensions in wildlife management.


Masters Student


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Taylor Stinchomb
2017
Master's Student
Social-ecological soundscapes: Examining aircraft-harvester conflict in Arctic Alaska


Affiliation: Advisor

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Abstract: As human development expands across the Arctic, it is crucial to carefully assess the impacts to remote natural ecosystems and to indigenous communities that rely on wild resources for nutritional and cultural wellbeing. Because indigenous communities and wildlife populations are interdependent, assessing how human activities impact traditional harvest practices can advance our understanding of the human dimensions of wildlife management. Indigenous communities across Arctic Alaska have expressed concern over the last four decades that low-flying aircraft interfere with their traditional harvest practices. For example, communities often have testified that aircraft disturb caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and thereby reduce harvest opportunities. Despite this longstanding concern, little research exists on the extent of aircraft activity in Arctic Alaska and on how aircraft affect the behavior and perceptions of harvesters. Therefore, the overarching goal of my research was to highlight the importance of aircraft-harvester conflict in Arctic Alaska and begin to address the issue using a scientific and community-driven approach. In Chapter 1, I demonstrated that conflict between aircraft and indigenous harvesters in Arctic Alaska is a widespread, understudied, and complex issue. By conducting a meta-analysis of the available literature, I quantified the deficiency of scientific knowledge about the impacts of aircraft on rural communities and traditional harvest practices in the Arctic. My results indicated that no peer-reviewed literature has addressed the conflict between low-flying aircraft and traditional harvesters in Arctic Alaska. I speculated that the scale over which aircraft, rural communities, and wildlife interact limits scientists' ability to determine causal relationships and therefore detracts from their interest in researching the human dimension of this social-ecological system. Innovative research approaches like soundscape ecology could begin to quantify interactions and provide baseline data that may foster mitigation discourses among stakeholders. In Chapter 2, I employed a soundscape-ecology approach to address concerns about aircraft activity expressed by the Alaska Native community of Nuiqsut. Nuiqsut faces the greatest volume of aircraft activity of any community in Arctic Alaska because of its proximity to intensive oil and gas activity. However, information on when and where these aircraft are flying is unavailable to residents, managers, and researchers. I worked closely with Nuiqsut residents to deploy acoustic monitoring systems along important caribou harvest corridors during the peak of caribou harvest, from early June through late August 2016. This method successfully captured aircraft sound and the community embraced my science for addressing local priorities. I found aircraft activity levels near Nuiqsut and surrounding oil developments (12 daily events) to be approximately six times greater than in areas over 30 km from the village (two daily events). Aircraft sound disturbance was 26 times lower in undeveloped areas (Noise Free Interval =13 hrs) than near human development (NFI = 0.5 hrs). My study provided baseline data on aircraft activity and noise levels. My research could be used by stakeholders and managers to develop conflict avoidance agreements and minimize interference with traditional harvest practices. Soundscape methods could be adapted to rural regions across Alaska that may be experiencing conflict with aircraft or other sources of noise that disrupt human-wildlife interactions. By quantifying aircraft activity using a soundscape approach, I demonstrated a novel application of an emerging field in ecology and provided the first scientific data on one dimension of a larger social-ecological system. Future soundscape studies should be integrated with research on both harvester and caribou behaviors to understand how the components within this system are interacting over space and time. Understanding the long-term impacts to traditional harvest practices will require integrated, cross-disciplinary efforts that collaborate with communities and other relevant stakeholders. Finally, my research will likely spark efforts to monitor and mitigate aircraft impacts to wildlife populations and traditional harvest practices across Alaska, helping to inform a decision-making process currently hindered by an absence of objective data.

PROJECTS PAGE


Story Map


 


Ian Johnson
2015
Masters Student
Thesis Title

Space use and movements of moose hunters and wolves in the Yukon Flats, Alaska


Affiliation: Advisor

More Information

Abstract: Wildlife management is challenged with addressing human resource needs while simultaneously conserving wildlife populations. Conflicts between humans and wildlife have increased across Northern countries with the expansion of human communities and environmental changes. Lack of information exists about reasons for such occurrences. This study explores adaptive capacity and resilience in coupled human-wildlife systems through the analysis of social and ecological factors contributing to perceptions of negative and positive human-bear (Ursus spp.) encounters. I first developed a theory to evaluate human perceptions and behaviors during human-wildlife encounters. Secondly I adopted an interdisciplinary framework to analyze human-bear encounters in urbanizing regions of south Sakhalin Island, Russian Far-East, and southcentral Alaska, USA. These case studies facilitate an analysis of perception development across spatial and social scales while incorporating approaches of both social and ecological sciences. Hunting, tourism and overall anthropogenic impacts are central to bear management, whereas cultural and social interests are perceived to not be considered in bear management decision-making across study regions. In Alaska, political interests are prevalent in bear management, whereas on Sakhalin, economic interests, including illegal animal trade and poaching prevail. Across study regions the perception of an encounter with a bear was dependent on the socio-economic situation of the individual having the encounter. The higher a person's socio-economic status was, the higher was their probability to perceive bear encounters as positive. Further, spatial and social scales across which perceptions vary are identified. Scales include urban-non-urban areas, wildland-urban interfaces, and a recreation-subsistence interest divide. Outside of urban areas, people's interests in recreation versus subsistence affect their perceptions toward bear encounters. Subsistence collectors of fish, game or plants are more likely to have negative encounters. Within urban areas, increased experience with encountering bears and length of residency are associated with positive encounters, whereas closeness to residences while not in sheltered environments increases negative encounters. These findings constitute spatial and social barriers and benefits to individualistic perception formation during human-bear encounters. Their identification advances resilience in researched human-wildlife systems and helps us to understand the adaptive capacities within these communities. The successful spatially-explicit integration of social and ecological variables promotes the opportunities for integrating human dimensions in wildlife management.


PROJECTS PAGE


 


Jeff Frederick
2015
Masters Student
Thesis Title: Alpine themal dynamics and associated constraints on the behavior of mountain goats in southeast Alaska.


Affiliation: Committee Member

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Abstract: Alpine Caprinae, including mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), have been described to be sensitive to temperature changes within their summer range and consequently may be forced to select habitats that allow for the maintenance of a stable core temperature on warm days. Survival may be inhibited if warm ambient temperatures cause mountain goats to reduce time foraging or if too much time is spent on thermoregulatory habitat selection. I investigated mountain goat behavioral activity budgets across alpine temperature gradients in Southeast Alaska using focal animal sampling and scan sampling techniques. I tested the effects of temperature on mountain goat activity and mountain goat elevation. Coupled with the behavioral investigations, I simultaneously monitored elevational temperature gradients using an array of passive thermistors. By monitoring hourly temperatures and deriving near-surface lapse rates, I demonstrate the utility of downscaled, region-specific temperature-elevation profiles for ecological applications rather than making inferences based on broad spatial models. Except in winter, lapse rates within the study area were between -0.3°C 100m⁻¹ and -0.4°C 100m⁻¹, and were not inclusive of the global mean environmental lapse rate (-0.65°C 100m⁻¹). Mountain goats within the study area demonstrated behavioral conservation of their activity budgets by altering their orientation through space and time, rather than incurring thermal and/or nutritional deficits. In addition, the animals took advantage of cooler temperatures at high elevations to bolster thermoneutrality. I highlight the need for behavioral ecology research that links physiological mechanisms and mammalian life history in an effort to predict the fate of a sentinel wildlife species as it copes with a changing environment. Indeed, such indicator species are invaluable to understanding the dynamics of change in ecosystem structure, function, and phenology. Given current warming trends and projections of changing climate regimes being more pronounced at higher latitudes, there is a marked need to better understand thermoregulatory constraints on faunal behavior and the effect of changing landscapes on the distributions and survival of wildlife populations in Alaska.


 


Britta Schroeder
2014
Masters Student
Thesis Title: Mapping landscape values and forest uses on the Tongass National Forest.


Affiliation: Committee Member

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Abstract: Throughout the world, humans are often faced with the challenge of sustaining economic development while also promoting environmental stewardship. Such is true for the management history of the Tongass National Forest, where the U.S. Forest Service is transitioning away from harvesting old-growth and moving towards a more economically and environmentally sustainable approach. To measure the preferences of local community members affected by this transition, I conducted an interdisciplinary case study on the Wrangell Ranger District in Southeast Alaska. Community members from Wrangell mapped landscape values, acceptable and unacceptable forest uses. By assessing these landscape values and forest uses with respondents' attitudes towards forest management alternatives, I identify spatial locations of conflicting timber harvest uses and recommend forest management objectives for the district. Through public participation, communities can provide spatially explicit input during the planning process, which creates opportunities for managers to incorporate community needs and better prioritize management objectives.


 


Richard Hum
2013
Masters Student
Thesis Title: Online social media as a social-ecological systems research tool: Facebook and two rural Alaskan communities.


Affiliation: Committee Member

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Abstract: The earth has transitioned into the anthropocene, which is defined by complex environmental change linked to human behavior and requires new tools of analysis in order to understand shifting social-ecological system (SES) dynamics. In this work, I explore taking advantage of widespread online social media participation to develop the tools for doing so. Spatially grounded public exchanges on Facebook are examined with three goals in mind: 1) examine the types of SES content being passed through this communication medium, 2) compare community observations to relevant scientific observations, and 3) define a flexible and reproducible research method for integrating these communications signals into a wide range of SES studies. Facebook activity from two communities in northwest Alaska was studied. Communication patterns were assessed combining content and network analysis methodology. My results indicate that signals are passed through this mode of communication directly addressing the SES topics of subsistence, food security, and human-weather interactions. Data from instrumentally based weather observations are qualitatively aligned with posting frequency and content. A context and community-based research method is defined that uses staged deductive/inductive content analysis, in conjunction with network analysis, to identify emergent local SES relationships.