Human action theories

Why do people do what they do? Understanding these theories of human action can help conservationists identify how to achieve a more sustainable world. However, these theories are dispersed across many different fields and are based on different meta-theories. I am synthesizing these theories to provide a map of the human action theories. I presented this work at the 2019 Student Conference on Conservation Science in Cambridge, UK. Collaborators: Dr. Kai Chan, Dr. Terre Satterfield

I also contributed to chapter 5 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment, and to a resulting paper.

Motivating conservation of widespread species

Using surveys of British Colubmians and econometrics, I am studying how relational values can help show how to motivate people to conserve widespread species. Paper is currently under review. Collaborators: Dr. Paige Olmsted, Dr. Robin Naidoo, and Dr. Kai Chan.

Relational values in conservation

I am also studying, more fundamentally, what relational values are and how a relational perspective could productively guide conservation research and action. Collaborators: Dr. Kai Chan, Dr. Terre Satterfield

Across North America, bird populations are plummeting: Since 1970, North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds. Much of these losses come from common, abundant species. To understand how Greater Vancouver can help to revert this decline,I received a grant to work with Stewardship Centre for BC and Birds Canada. I began conducting bird, plant, and landscape surveys across Greater Vancouver in June 2020. Since then, I’ve conducted more than 500 point count surveys and 120 transect surveys. After I finish collecting a year’s worth of data, I create multispecies abundance models using a Bayesian framework in stan. By comparing these data with data collected at the same sites in the 1960s, ’70s and ’90s, I will identify trends in local bird diversity, what is driving them, and how Vancouver can begin to reverse them. Moreover, by combining these data with data that Jaylen Bastos and the Stewardship Centre for BC is collecting on roaming cat density (in another study), priority areas for cat awareness and management can be identified. More information about these studies can be found here.

Beyond birds, I am also co-supervising UBC undergraduate student Nicole Jung who is investigating the drivers of urban epiphyte diversity.

Implementing average predictive comparisons

As modelling frameworks become more complex, it can be difficult to isolate the effects of different variables. Average predictive comparison provide a method for this estimation. However, they have rarely been used because they can be complicated to implement. I am creating an implementation of average predictive comparisons in a Bayesian framework using Stan . See my explanatory document on github. Collaborators: Dr. Geoffrey Legault

Has COVID-19, and the associated lockdowns, affected people’s relationships with wildlife?

Using a survey and quantitative and qualitative analysis of North American urbanites, we are investigating how COVID-19 has changed people’s lifestyles, and how this in turn is changing people’s relationships with local wildlife. How can cities adapt to these changes, and give people the connections to nature that they need? Collaborators: Jo Fitzgibbons, Rocío López de la Lama.

Bird conservation and community ecology in agriculture fields

Perhaps the biggest way that people are connected to nature is through their food consumption. Unfortunately, the corn and soy monocultures in the American Midwest provide little habitat for birds. Some farmers are experimenting with perennial polyculture fields to support biodiversity and provide food and livelihoods. I conducted bird and plant surveys at 13 of these polyculture farms in 2018, along with adjacent woods, prairies, and monocultures. I am now building multispecies abundance models in Stan to understand if these polycultures do indeed provide superior habitat for birds, and to identify what metacommunity processes are assembling these communities. Collaborators: Dr. Diane Srivastava and Dr. Maayan Kreitzman

Tourist preferences for African Protected Areas

What aspects of African Protected Areas attract tourists? The ‘Big five’ megafauna are often seen as key features of any park, but do they drive visits? I aggregated spatial data on mammal and bird diversity across a swath of African protected areas and combined it with counts of tourist visits to these protected areas, and am now writing up the results. I presented this work at the 2018 International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver, BC. Collaborators: Dr. Robin Naidoo.

I am also a contributing author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Values Assessment, focusing on what values underlie a traditional National Park in Africa, compared to a an area conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities (ICCA).

Invasion ecology

What causes some plants to become invasive and others not? Are some species able to rapidly evolve to excel in a novel environment? Or are they able to flourish in a novel environment without adapting? For my undergraduate thesis research, I collected plant seeds from their native range in Europe and invasive range in North America, grew them in a variety of climates in growth chambers and then used multilevel models in Stan to understand if these seven species had rapidly evolved since invasion. Paper is currently under review. Collaborators: Dr. Elizabeth Wolkovich.

Sensory ecology

I conduct bird color vision and sensory ecology research with Dr. Mary Caswell Stoddard at the Rocky Mountain Biological Station in Colorado. See our recent publication in PNAS and my twitter thread summary.