Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Using novel technologies to confront challenges in predator conservation, community ecology, and citizen science
by Wang, Yiwei, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2014, 174; 3617122
Abstract (Summary)

Habitat fragmentation and loss is the primary driver of mammalian carnivore extinctions across the world. In the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, native carnivores navigate daily through a landscape highly impacted by human development and activities. The puma (Puma concolor ) is the apex predator of this habitat, but it is susceptible to both direct and indirect influences of expanding human populations. Smaller predators are not only affected by anthropogenic disturbances, but also by intraguild competition with the more dominant pumas.

My dissertation utilizes new technologies to study the ecology and behavior of carnivores in a human dominated environment. In my first chapter, I catalogued puma behaviors in the wild using measurements recorded by accelerometers attached to the animals. I found that I could clearly distinguish movement from non-movement behavior, and that predation events had distinctive accelerometer signatures. The second chapter describes how I used movement data recorded by GPS (Global Positioning System) collars to evaluate puma behavioral responses to increasing development. Pumas primarily traveled nocturnally, and moved more often and further in areas of higher housing development. The increase in activity in human dominated landscapes could have major repercussions on the energetic expenditure of pumas living in fragmented areas. My third chapter addresses the impacts of human development and activities on the entire carnivore community. Combining passive and experimental observations using motion-detecting camera traps, I studied the spatiotemporal behavior of predators across a gradient of human influences. Mesopredator activity was restricted temporally in areas of high human use, and certain predators (e.g., pumas and foxes) were more sensitive to increasing development.

Lastly, education and outreach is an important component of carnivore conservation. In my fourth chapter, I describe results from a Facebook game I developed with collaborators. Players earned points by identifying wildlife species from camera trap photographs. I found that agreement among players was the most important determinant of accuracy, and that untrained Internet users could identify many wildlife species. The Internet is an emerging tool for outreach, and I hope my work encourages other ecologists to think creatively about incorporating citizen scientists into their research through social media.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wilmers, Chris C.
Commitee: Estes, James A., Haddad, Brent M.
School: University of California, Santa Cruz
Department: Environmental Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Wildlife Conservation, Ecology, Environmental Studies
Keywords: Accelerometer, Behavioral ecology, Big cats, Citizen science, Occupancy, Puma concolor
Publication Number: 3617122
ISBN: 978-1-303-84255-9
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