Understanding the causes and consequences of animal movement, space use and habitat selection, including distribution modelling are other research interests of mine. There is obvious overlap with my interests in dispersal and connectivity modelling, and this separation of themes is somewhat arbitrary.
I carried out my first significant field-based research for my MSc at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland in the framework of an international wild boar Sus scrofa management project at the French-Swiss border in the Geneva Basin, under the scientific supervision of Claude Fischer and Eric Baubet. One of the questions I addressed in my thesis was the effect of crop fencing and dissuasive feeding on wild boar space use and habitat selection patterns using telemetry data. I got involved with this wild boar project again during my first post-doc at UKZN, and analysed the entire 6-year telemetry dataset to understand drivers of wild boar space use under contrasting management regimes in a fragmented landscape. During the same time, I collaborated with Kevin Morelle on one of his PhD papers on modelling wild boar expansion into agro-ecosystems in Belgium.
For my PhD I collected leopard Panthera pardus telemetry data for two and half years in the field. Following conservation interventions implemented in 2005 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa the leopard population density increased on Phinda Game Reserve. I tested how this possibly affected the social organisation patterns of adults. Analysing an 11-year telemetry dataset, I demonstrated that as leopard density increased, female home range size and inter-annual fidelity in home range use decreased, and females formed matrilineal kin clusters. In contrast, males maintained large home ranges, and did not track female home range contraction. Spacing dynamics in adult leopards was consistent with sex-specific dispersal strategies (more on this under the Dispersal tab).
Later, a nyala Tragelaphus angasii monitoring project in the reserve included radio-tracking of six individuals. I recently advised a colleague on analysing the telemetry data collected over 16 months, and on writing a research note on the effect of rainfall on nyala seasonal home range size.
I recently got in touch with colleagues working on the effect of roads on wildlife behaviour and distribution in African protected areas. We decided to share an ungulate count dataset I collected during my PhD filedwork, and designed a road ecology project for a desktop-based MSc thesis I am now co-supervising with Manuela González-Suárez and Marcello d'Amico. The student investigates the effect of roads on ungulates' distribution, and the possible interspecific, temporal, seasonal, or behavioural differences. While providing a better understanding of ungulate ecology, the results will also serve as a baseline for ungulate management in the reserve. I feel very happy these data will not go to waste, while at the same time will serve towards someone’s degree!