I have a background in population ecology, developed during my M.S. degree in raptor ecology at Boise State University. Both my M.S. research and a subsequent project in the Taita Hills, Kenya, involved understanding the factors that influence raptor populations, particularly Accipter hawks.
Reproductive ecology of northern goshawks
The northern goshawk (Accipter gentilis) is typically associated with conifer forests, but in the Independence Mountains of northern Nevada goshawks breed in high-elevation aspen habitat. My M.S. research was part of a long-term goshawk monitoring project coordinated by my supervisor at Boise State University, Marc J. Bechard.
Using trapping, banding, and re-sighting techniques, we found that over the 11 years the population had been monitored goshawk occupancy declined significantly. This was most likely mediated by colder temperatures during February and March affecting goshawk food supply and hunting behavior. Additionally, my work contributed to our understanding of goshawk population dynamics in the larger northeastern Great Basin. Results suggest that a large-scale factor, such as spring climate, is responsible for changes in goshawk reproduction seen throughout the region.
Taita Raptor Project
The Taita Hills Important Bird Area in southeastern Kenya is the northernmost extension of the Eastern Arc Mountains (see map). The cool, moist, indigenous cloud forests of the Taita Hills are a stark contrast to the hot, dry, scrub and grasslands of the surrounding Tsavo Plains below. This varied physical geography has created numerous breeding and foraging opportunities for a diversity of raptor species in the Taita Hills area, but subsistence farmsteads are putting increasing pressure on the remaining forest fragments. In collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Ornithology at the National Museums of Kenya, I started a raptor research and conservation project in the Taita Hills IBA that included trapping, banding and surveying three raptor species in and around the indigenous forest fragments. This project has been on hiatus since my PhD, but future updates will be posted here.