Postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Eve Bohnett has embarked on a fieldwork journey in Chitwan district, Nepal. Her research is funded as part of a National Science Foundation grant to study coupled human-natural systems. In Chitwan district, there are distinct management zones where some areas receive funds to provide villagers with training and encourage participation in restoration programs. There are avenues for the conservation of wildlife that are compatible with wider forest management regimes ongoing throughout the area.
To understand how land management strategies influence local biodiversity, Dr. Bohnett will estimate occupancy and abundance of wildlife in the region using thermal infrared drones and a remote camera array. Wildlife of interest include greater one-horned rhino, Asian elephant, sambar deer, red muntjac, spotted deer, wild boar, Bengal tiger, and rhesus macaques. Additionally, she will implement a participatory mapping project to identify areas of key ecosystem services provisions such as grazing, firewood collection, fishing, or tourist-related camping. Her work will ultimately inform how we understand the complex relationships between socio-economic, cultural, and ecological factors.
Dr. Rebecca Lewison and Dr. Megan Jennings in the Conservation Ecology Lab at San Diego State University (SDSU) seek a self-motivated and hardworking graduate student at the Ph.D. level to conduct research on Peninsular desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) population ecology and conservation through population, habitat/resource use, and predation modeling in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The goal of this project is to update population information and the role of predation in the distinct population segment of desert bighorn sheep located in southern California’s Peninsular Range to inform recovery planning for the species, which is listed as threatened under California’s Endangered Species Act and endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The research project will focus on applied conservation science, as well as wildlife, landscape, and population ecology. Potential research questions may include topics related to predation risk from pumas (Puma concolor) in a multi-prey system and factors affecting habitat or resource utilization and population persistence (e.g., drought).
To apply, submit the following to Dr. Megan Jennings (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line “Bighorn Sheep PhD Assistantship”. Application review will begin October 4 and applications will be accepted through October 15, 2021:
We’re interested in applicants who are able to start before the academic year (e.g., Spring 2022). Selected applicant will also be required to apply for admission to the Joint Doctoral Program in Ecology between SDSU and the University of California, Davis. Applications for Fall 2022 admission to the Joint Doctoral Program are due to UC Davis on December 1, 2021. Abbreviated applications to SDSU are by request after initial review.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) - Sea Grant Joint Fellowship supports the next generation of specialized experts in fisheries management. This fellowship addresses the critical need for future fisheries scientists with expertise in stock assessment that will inform how we protect and manage marine resources and environments in a changing world. Lab member Nima Farchadi was recently awarded this prestigious fellowship for his research on fishery-species and fishing fleet distributions under anomalous climatic conditions.
Climate-driven changes in the oceans are shifting the distributions of fishery resources; however, further research is needed on how fishing fleets will be affected by these climate changes. Because fish populations and fishing fleets may respond to climate change in divergent ways, accurately describing and understanding variations in species and fleet distributions is a key requirement for managers and policy makers to develop management strategies that will support climate-readiness and resilience in U.S. fisheries. As an awardee of the 2021 Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries Joint Fellowship Program, Nima Farchadi will be employing a novel joint fishery-species distribution model (JFSDMs) approach to improve our understanding of how fish and fishers will respond to marine heatwaves. Nima will focus on predicting the spatiotemporal distribution and relative overlap of albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) and the northwest Pacific Albacore troll fishery. The goal of this research is to evaluate the predictive skill of JFSDMs under anomalous environmental conditions and support climate resilient and climate-ready fisheries management.
Until fairly recently, the majority of landscape connectivity analyses considered connectivity as a static landscape feature, despite the widespread recognition that landscapes and the abiotic and biotic processes that influence them are dynamic. An upcoming Special Issue of Land calls attention to the importance of landscape dynamics for characterizing, planning for and maintaining connectivity. The special issue reviews the state of dynamic connectivity science and presents current applications of dynamic connectivity in landscapes around the world.
The articles in the issue focus on innovative analyses to assess structural and functional connectivity that can inform adaptive planning for connectivity over time from a landscape and species perspective. The contributions evaluate the influence of spatial and temporal dynamics on connectivity in response to seasonal, annual, or decadal climate changes and changes in conservation and development status. The articles also explore the importance of collaborative partnerships between scientists and stakeholders to develop, interpret and enact effective connectivity plans, and, most importantly, develop implementation priorities and strategies.
Whether in support of conservation of tigers in Southeast Asia, creating sustainable landscapes to support multiple species in chaparral of Southern California, landscape connectivity in the Upper Yellow River, China, or establishing a landscape connectivity network in Northern California, the innovative research from the authors in the Special Issue highlights how landscape dynamics are essential to understand connectivity and how failure to translate connectivity science into planning efforts has impeded the ability to effectively protect connected landscapes now and under future conditions. Although there are unique challenges that accompany the adoption of dynamic connectivity for conservation management and planning in the context of traditional conservation prioritization approaches, what this body of research evidences is that with the increased availability of temporal and spatial climate and species movement data, computational capacity, and an expanding number of empirical examples in the literature, incorporating dynamic processes into connectivity models is an intrinsic component of connectivity and integral to the future of connectivity science.
Debates around the Green New Deal have largely centered around climate change concerns on land. A new paper from Rebecca Lewison and colleagues explains why policies that integrate terrestrial and ocean approaches are needed to create a robust portfolio of climate adaptation and mitigation measures supporting communities, the environment and the economy. “A Teal Deal combines land and ocean approaches to address climate change, generating economic benefits to communities everywhere,” Lewison said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that rapid, responsive and coordinated efforts across sectors can stop a crisis. The climate change crisis is ongoing and an integrated policy offers the same opportunity -- to develop a responsive and coordinated multi-sectoral plan for climate resilience.”
For more, visit SDSU NewsCenter
By Dr. Isabel Rojas-Viada
In early Spring, Dr. Megan Jennings and I ventured through the Santa Margarita River gorge, within San Diego State University’s Ecological Reserve, named after the same river. Our task was to deploy temperature data loggers along and across the river, to monitor the gorge’s climates and map climate refugia, part of the project “Connecting Wildlands and Communities”.
Climate refugia are at the core of today’s conservation toolkit as they can protect species’ populations from anthropogenic climate warming, maintaining more stable climates than surrounding sites and having less exposure to extreme weather events like heat waves or droughts. To find these climate stable sites, we will quantify the rate of climate warming across the landscape and assess persistence and behavior of local weather events that alter the effect of regional climate warming. To meet our objectives, we are monitoring microclimates at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve to learn what weather events drive climate variability in our region and to adjust coarse scale maps that we are developing with other types of data.
On a misty, sunny morning, we launched our walk along the narrow, sinuous gorge. Our eyes were captured by an ever-changing river, with ponds and short rapids built from rocks of many shapes and colors. Along the river banks, we found riparian ecosystems of various kinds, from wetlands dominated by cattails and giant reeds, to small patches of oaks. Those oaks were gorgeous. By being a more mesic species, they are a sign that microclimates allowed their establishment. I really enjoyed looking at their form and color. They transported me way far south, to the mediterranean rivers in Chile. There, trees of the same color and size, with hard, evergreen, sclerophyllous leaves stand, sharing a similar river and the same sky. We also encountered some wild animals; we saw some of them, we heard others, and we spotted a few of them by the remains of their presence, their scat; enough to know they were close by.
Our walk continued for a long day. Without a trail and little references, we expected some challenges on your way. We crossed the river four times; so staying dry wasn’t easy. We also encountered a patch of prickly pear cactus blocking our way. We had two options, that spiny prickly pear patch or a rocky cliff. Fortunately, we didn’t have to choose one of those options, as Megan neatly cut a path through the patch. I’m not sure what we would have done without Megan’s gloves and knife. You must be prepared for everything when you are out there in the gorge! At the end, and after beating lots and lots of chaparral, we successfully deployed the loggers following our plan.
We will continue our climate monitoring in the Santa Margarita river. Stay tuned about project updates at “Connecting wildlands and communities”. I want to thank the managers of the reserve, Pablo Bryant and James Bourdon, for their support and facilitating our field trips. I acknowledge the contribution of project collaborators: Rebecca Lewison, Dan Cayan, Douglas Alden, Julie Kalansky, Alan and Lorraine Flint.
List of species:
Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, American Coot, Acorn Woodpecker, Great Blue heron, Western Scrub-Jay, California Towhee, Yellow-rump Warbler, Common Yellow-throated warbler, Hooded Oriole, American Goldfinch, Wren spp, Mallard, Song Sparrow, American Crow, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, California Quail.
California tree frog, Bullfrog
Rattlesnake (heard but not seen, so species is unknown!), western fence lizard, whiptail lizard
Bobcat, Coyote, Brush rabbit, ground squirrel, woodrat.
Damselflies, Dragonflies, Swallowtail butterfly, California sister butterfly, Darkling beetle
Coast live oak, Toyon, Willow cottonwood, Salix spp. (Willow), Western Sycamore, Wild grape, California Bee Plant, Indian paintbrush, Fingertips (Dudleya edulis), Chaparral yucca, Poison oak, White sage, Black sage, Laurel sumac, California sagebrush, Sugar bush, Chamise, Ceanothus spp., Gazania, Alder spp., Tree Tobacco, Fan palm, Eucalyptus spp, Morning glory sp., Thistle spp., Miner’s Lettuce, California dodder (Cuscuta californica), Common cryptantha, Phacelia spp., Sticky monkeyflower, Coastal Prickly Pear, Iris spp., Lupinus spp.,
Stinging lupine, Giant reed.
Maintaining landscape connectivity is recognized as critical to protecting viable populations and ecosystems on the landscape. Yet, much of the science around connectivity considers landscape as static, ignoring changes in land use pressure, other stressors and climate change. The Lewison lab is editing a special issue of Land that focuses on landscape connectivity in dynamic systems. The special issue will present cutting edge science on case studies and challenges of dynamic connectivity, best practices and lessons learned for researchers and practitioners, an exploration of the role of stakeholder engagement, social networks and boundary-spanning organizations in successful dynamic connectivity planning, and approaches to support decision-making, prioritization and implementation of dynamic connectivity.
To learn more about the special issue (due out in Summer 2020), click here
At the beginning of February, seven members of the lab had the opportunity to travel to the Western Section of the Wildlife Society conference, held this year in Redding, CA. The week spent in Redding was filled with engaging talks, useful workshops, the chance to connect with wildlife colleagues, and lots of quality time with lab mates. We even managed to find an afternoon to go on a hike in nearby Castle Crags State Park. Kylie, Emma, Madi, and Greta all presented posters on their M.S. thesis research, and did an excellent job representing the exciting research going on in the Conservation Ecology Lab!
The Lewison Lab