By Shannon Kachel
Photo Credit: R. Kulenbekov/Panthera/Kaiberen/NCMRD/SAEF/NAS/UW/SU
I'm excited and relieved to check in once again from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This time I'm on my way home to Seattle. I return far from empty-handed, bringing non-invasive genetic samples of wolves, snow leopards and brown bears, as well as thousands of camera trap photos for some unfortunate undergraduates to plow through, and most significantly, for the next 20 months, five daily updates on the movements of F1, a 38 kg female snow leopard, who my partners and I at Panthera fit with a GPS collar, and by so doing kicked off our study of the ecological and behavioral dynamics among snow leopards, wolves and their shared prey. This was a first here in Kyrgyzstan, and came only as the result of months (and in some cases years) of dedication from an entire team of individuals from all over the world. With this hurdle behind us, we can finally get to the gnitty-gritty of the day to day science that will help us to understand and conserve this enigmatic species and the high mountains ecosystems it calls home.
Photo Credit: Panthera/Kaiberen/NCMRD/SAEF/NAS/UW/SU
My collaborators and I will use camera traps and fecal genetics to estimate a range of population parameters for both wolves and snow leopards in a spatially explicit context - we will literally map the density of these animals as a changing variable across the study area, almost like a heat map in a weather forecast. Then, like any other landscape covariate, we can compare numerical patterns with the behavioral observations of our collared animals (again in a spatially explicit context). Behavior in turn will help us create maps of potential or naïve predation risk to ungulates based on the hunting and kill rates we observe. Taken together, these behavioral and numerical insights will help us to predict, test and understand patterns in prey behavior and numbers, as well as those of both carnivores. In an applied context, this information has potential prescriptive value to reduce carnivore-human conflicts and to identify key habitat components and configurations necessary for high mountain predators to survive.
By: Apryle Craig
Project Background: In northeast Washington, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) may be trading off food and safety due to increased risk of predation from naturally recolonizing gray wolves (Canis lupus). Increased vigilance and the subsequent decrease in time spent foraging may lead to differences in fitness between groups or changes in impacts to vegetation communities as a result of trophic cascade. To test this hypothesis, my research team outfitted deer with video collars that record their behavior from their point of view.
Job Description: The Deer Behavior Intern will review video clips from the deer collars and record vigilance, foraging, group size, habitat variables, and other key characteristics in an Excel spreadsheet. The intern may have the opportunity to assist with other related projects in the lab as time permits. Reviewing the videos can be tedious and requires high attention to detail. An example of a video can be seen below.
Time Commitment: The intern will work 4-6 hours per week, on-site at our lab in Winkenwerder Hall at the University of Washington for the duration of the UW winter quarter (Approx Jan 4-March 11). Preferred schedule is 2-3 hours on Mondays and 2-3 hours on Wednesdays. Exact start and end date is flexible and weekly schedule is flexible (if you’re only available Tuesdays/Thursdays, don’t let that stop you from applying). Although the position is unpaid, independent study credit is available for UW students.
To apply: Please email your resume to apryle [ at ] uw dot edu, and include Deer Behavior Internship in the subject of the email. No cover letter necessary. In your email, please tell me what you hope to get out of the internship and what your preferred times are for Mondays and Wednesdays (or propose 2 other days and times). Thanks!