My current research focuses on how sensitive wildlife responds to increased natural (i.e., forest insect outbreaks, fire) and human-caused (i.e., recreation, forest fragmentation, energy development) disturbance. Understanding how increased disturbance impacts forests and wildlife is of global concern because these environmental changes are expected to accelerate with continued climate change and with our ever-expanding human footprint in natural landscapes. I am currently studying: 1) how Canada lynx and their prey respond to changes in habitat condition from fire and insect-related disturbance processes; 2) how the demography of Canada lynx is impacted by forest structure and composition; and 3) the response of lynx to forest silviculture and management.
Another important issue facing species conservation at a global scale is understanding how outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism impacts sensitive wildlife. Outdoor recreationists are central in the defense and use of public lands, but they also can impact sensitive species of wildlife through their motorized and non-motorized activities. I just completed studies that investigated how Canada lynx and wolverines respond to motorized (snowmobiles) and non-motorized (backcountry skiing) outdoor recreation in the western United States.
Finally, I have had a life-long interest in the conservation and management of birds of prey and native prairie ecosystems. I am studying how ferruginous hawks and golden eagles respond to energy development in terms of their behavior, movements, migration, resource use, and occupancy.
I am most interested in providing research that discovers better ways to manage and conserve sensitive species and their habitat in natural landscapes. The goal of my research is not only to advance scientific and ecological understanding in general, but to also provide practical solutions to the many management challenges associated with species conservation. My interests include learning how a species’ movements, spatial use, resource selection, behaviors, and viability relate to changes in landscape pattern, including forest silviculture and energy development. I am also very interested in learning how to enhance landscape connectivity for sensitive species, especially forest carnivores, in response to natural and anthropogenic change.
Throughout my career, I conducted field studies that provided new scientific information based on direct measures of animal movement, behavior, and resource use; usually this was accomplished by instrumenting animals with GPS-based telemetry. This work included: 1) studying connectivity of wolverines in central Montana; 2) studying with cooperators how snow compaction changed coyote/lynx potential competition; and 3) researching how Canada lynx in Colorado respond to highways and transportation infrastructure. For over 20 years, I continued to lead Canada lynx studies from Montana through southern Colorado. During this time, I studied lynx demography in relation to forest condition, connectivity, seasonal changes in resource selection, denning behavior, movements, diets, and their spatial and temporal responses to forest silviculture. From 2000 to the present, I have continued to develop and evaluate detection and monitoring methods for mid-sized carnivores. During my early years, I studied the ecology of prairie falcons, northern goshawks, and trumpeter swans in Wyoming.
Wildlife conservation is a core American value. The public’s extensive input regarding conservation plans, regulation, media coverage, wildlife watching, and citizen science is a testimony to their deep concern for wildlife management on federal lands. My research is important because we learn how environmental changes to landscapes may either benefit or impair sensitive species depending on implementation. Results from our studies help inform activities across millions of acres of public land in ways that balance multi-use management with species conservation. Our research continues to provide a bridge of communication between people concerned about species conservation and those individuals and communities that are dependent on Forest Service and other public lands for timber, recreation, and energy.