Conservation Capacity Development
My recent research on this theme has focused on improving conservation education in both academic and public settings. The goals of this work are to develop professional capacity in conservation science and management where it is most needed, and to inform people of the benefits of preserving native biodiversity.
Global priorities for developing capacity in biodiversity conservation
In the United States, we benefit from very strong higher education capacity, with numerous undergraduate and graduate programs in conservation and related disciplines. The same is not true in much of the rest of the world, where conservation challenges are often most pressing. I am currently working with collaborators to implement a global survey of conservation professionals and institutes of higher education in select focal countries to understand where and how efforts to further develop conservation capacity can best be implemented.
Biodiversity and Ecological Science
Much of my research has focused on tropical forests, and particularly in understanding the consequences of human activities for plant and animal communities, with a strong emphasis on promoting effective conservation. My ecological research has mainly explored the effects of defaunation - the selective loss of animals, mostly due to hunting and logging. See more about specific project themes below.
Plant-Animal Interactions, Timber Regeneration, and Forest Management
Plant-animal interactions are prominent in tropical forests - ranging from mutualistic seed dispersal to antagonistic herbivory and seed predation by "plant enemies" - but their importance for timber regeneration is largely unknown. I'm working with collaborators to inform forest management that maintains ecological integrity while promoting the sustainable harvest of timber and non-timber forest products.
Effects of Vertebrate Herbivores on Forest Structure, Diversity, and Biogeography
There are major and understudied differences in plant-animal interactions, forest structure, and tree species diversity between Neotropical and Paleotropical forest regions. This may be due in part to biogeographical differences in large herbivore communities, particularly the presence or absence of megafauna like elephants. We've used artificial seedlings and focal tree plant plots to determine the role of large herbivore damage for seedling mortality, forest structure, and species diversity in intact and defaunated forests of Peru, Gabon, and Malaysian Borneo.
Defaunation, Seed Predation, and Diversity Maintenance
Hunting and logging modify seed predator communities, with consequences for seed dispersal and predation, seedling recruitment, and plant community diversity. I've investigated these outcomes in Gabon and Peru using a variety of methods, including exclosures, telemetric seed transmitters, and camera traps.
Seed Dispersal and Density Compensation in Hunted Primate Communities
Hunters in Neotropical forests overwhelmingly target large frugivorous vertebrates, particularly monkeys. As smaller species are ignored, hunting pressure can result in a dramatic restructuring of primate communities. We've used line transect surveys in Peru to determine the consequences of this for primate communities and the seed dispersal processes they facilitate.