Ungulates and predator-prey interactions
The primary focus of my research is aimed at understanding the dynamical consequences of predation on ungulates in complex multi-species systems. This framework encompasses my past research on mountain caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in British Columbia, Canada; huemul deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus) in Patagonia, Chile; and my ongoing research on mule (Odocoileus hemionus) and black-tailed deer (O. h. columbianus) in California, USA. Pumas (Puma concolor) are important predators of ungulates in all three of these systems and, together with my students, I have spent much effort understanding their ecology and, particularly, changes in their kill rates as a consequence of competition with other carnivores (e.g. American black bears, Ursus americanus) and scavengers (e.g. Andean condors, Vultur gryphus).
Together with Chris Wilmers from the University of California, Santa Cruz, I currently direct the Siskiyou Deer Study in northern California. The project is externally funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife until December 2019. The overall objective of our project is to provide baseline population parameters for mule and black-tailed deer (e.g. pregnancy rates, fawn and adult survival, causes of mortality) and to understand the interactions of bottom-up (food) and top-down (predation) effects on deer population dynamics. As part of the project we have captured and fitted a sample of deer (fawns and adult females) with VHF/GPS collars and have also captured and collared pumas. We are particularly excited about the opportunity to detect possible direct and indirect effects associated with the current recolonization of northern California by wolves (Canis lupus) on puma foraging strategies. The video below shows one of our collared pumas feeding on an elk cow it killed.
Community ecology in Borneo
More recently I have expanded my research interests to understanding drivers of community structure and dynamics in mega-diverse tropical systems in Indonesian Borneo. In 2015, I was extremely lucky to join my friend and collaborator Andrew Marshall from the University of Michigan who has been conducting research at our field site in Gunung Palung National Park for almost 20 years. Using a network of newly installed motion-activated remote cameras and other monitoring methods we focus on quantifying the effects of habitat quality, climate change and species interactions on long-term changes in species’ distributions and dynamics inside protected areas in the tropics. Video observations from a range of rare and elusive species have already resulted in several publications. For example, we have recorded around 200 videos of Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi) and published a paper in Scientific Reports (Allen et al. 2016) describing the diversity of communication behaviours we were able to observe for the first time.
My students and I are involved in a variety of conservation projects:
1) Together with my PhD student Victor Anton, I am conducting research aimed at understanding the effects of invasive mammals on native biodiversity in urban areas in New Zealand. The project is partially funded by Wellington City Council and uses a combination of monitoring methods including motion-activated remote cameras and citizen science. Have a look at Victor’s citizen science webpage and help him analyse the large number of photos of invasive mammals we have collected.
2) My PhD student Johannes Fischer is currently conducting research on the critically endangered South Georgian Diving Petrel on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou. His PhD research is a continuation of his MSc project and has already resulted in several publications discussing habitat selection and monitoring techniques.
3) My PhD student Michelle McLellan is conducting research on Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in British Columbia. Using long-term data from identifiable individuals she is using a range of statistical tools to try and identify mechanisms of population change in two adjacent threatened grizzly bear populations.