Funded Research Projects: WILDLIFE SCIENCE

CAREER: Integrating positive and negative interactions in carnivore community ecology

Research Sponsored By: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Principal Investigator: Laura Prugh
Project Description
The goal of this study is to understand how large carnivores affect smaller carnivores through negative interactions (predation, competition) as well as positive interactions (providing food via ungulate carcasses). I will take advantage of a unique study system in Washington to address fundamental questions about carnivore community dynamics and lay the foundation of a long-term research and education program. Washington harbors a diverse suite of carnivores, and the natural recolonization by wolves (Canis lupus) during the past decade presents the opportunity to study the effect of wolves on smaller carnivores using a replicated natural experiment. This project will use a powerful combination of stable isotope enrichment experiments at carcass sites, fecal genotyping, GPS collars, remote cameras at kill sites, and modeling to test hypotheses about positive and negative interactions among wolves, cougars (Puma concolor), coyotes (Canis latrans), and bobcats (Felis rufus). This study will provide opportunities to involve Alaska Native students in field and lab-based research, and the kill site photographs will be used to create authentic research experiences for hundreds of undergraduates and high school students each year. This integrated research and teaching program will benefit my research by fostering novel ideas, hypothesis testing, and data processing from students, while at the same time contributing towards my teaching goal of improving the effectiveness of wildlife science education for a diverse student body.