Ecology and Conservation Biology
As our landscapes change, we must identify conflicts with the needs of wild things and generate innovative solutions that allow us to live alongside them in perpetuity. Natural history and ecology are the foundations of my research program; all research is grounded in the understanding that I am studying living and breathing wild creatures that persist in the landscape by escaping predation, catching prey, finding mates and successfully reproducing.
I strive to conduct research relevant to current conservation issues while generating information that will aid in the formulation of effective multi-species conservation planning. My research program is largely applied and integrative in the sense that I am interested in both population and assemblage-level studies as well as those that investigate spatial ecology and resource use; these studies occur within the context of landscape and restoration ecology, wildlife management, and conservation biology. My hypothesis-driven research generally takes one of two approaches: 1) evaluation of large-scale ecological patterns and 2) landscape-scale experimental manipulations. In addition to natural history and applied studies, I maintain an interest in how interspecific interactions, such as predation and competition, influence population persistence and assemblage structure.
“The pressure on early-career scientists to publish leaves little room for observation and reflection, much to the detriment of our science and of the pure joy of being a scientist. Nonetheless, natural history remains integral to the exploration and rationalization of nature. I hope that we will continue to cherish this truth.” Robert E. Ricklefs (2012. American Naturalist 179:423-435.)
Wildlife Management and Conservation Policy
Studies within applied fields such as wildlife management, restoration ecology, and conservation biology are implicitly goal-laden pursuits. For these studies to be objective and scientific, they must be grounded in a solid philosophical framework. Because of large-scale and ongoing environmental change, we must continuously reevaluate how we perceive the effects of this change and how we, as conservation biologists, should respond. I have recently developed an interest in building some of these frameworks.
I work to bridge the gap between academic research and actual management policies by writing my papers such that they are accessible and relevant to wildlife managers. I also serve as a peer reviewer for important policy documents and join committees interested in using scientific research to inform conservation efforts, including:
- Alabama Non-game Wildlife Committee, responsible for advising on species that are worthy of protection and conservation action in the state.
- Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Conservation Action Planning Team, responsible for advising on effective long-term conservation plans for the species.
- Eastern Indigo Snake Reintroduction Committee, responsible for advising on how to effectively achieve conservation goals for this species (i.e., removal from the Endangered Species Act).
- Peer reviewer for proposed listing and designation of critical habitat for the Black Pinesnake under the Endangered Species Act.
“This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter downriver. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state.” Aldo Leopold