The overall goal of my research is to inform landscape-level conservation strategies to enhance the protection of freshwater turtles. My research integrates key puzzle pieces that are required to achieve this: (1) identifying critical habitat, (2) modeling habitat occupancy and suitability, (3) spatial ecology, and (4) management and mitigation strategies.
Identify Critical Habitat: habitat use and selection
I use radio tracking and GPS devices to collect locational information for at-risk turtles. These data are used in a Geographic Information System (GIS) and are coupled with a variety of spatial statistics to determine turtle habitat use and selection throughout the year. My research focuses on determining what habitats, how much habitat, and the configuration of habitats that are required for various populations of turtles. I am also interested in overwintering habitat and determining the fine-scale characteristics that are associated with occupied overwintering habitats. In particular, I have focused on the importance of water temperatures.
Modeling: habitat occupancy and suitability
Mapping habitat occupancy and suitability are vital tools for land-use planning, targeting management strategies, and streamlining future field work. My research integrates hydrology and ecology to accurately model and map habitats that are occupied and/or suitable for at-risk reptiles. In particular, I am focusing on the interaction between dynamic landscapes and freshwater turtles, and how changes in climate and anthropogenic pressures impact the availability and resilience of vital habitats.
Spatial ecology is integrated in most of the research I conduct, but I am explicitly interested in the effects of invasive species on reptile spatial ecology. Phragmites australis, is an aggressive plant that has invaded many wetland, potentially changing the structure of available habitat for turtles. My research examines the impact P. australis has on turtle spatial ecology and implications for habitat management.
Management and Mitigation Strategies:
Road mortality is a major threat to biodiversity, and is particularly detrimental for long-lived species such as turtles, and my collaborative research has assessed road mortality mitigation strategies to provide valuable insight into successful approaches.
My work also examines management strategies more broadly, and the importance of monitoring and active management in protected areas to sustain critical habitats for herpetofauna in the long-term.