1. Citizen Science and the Monitoring of Protected Areas (SNRE SEED Grant)
This research will establish a protocol for embracing citizen science into natural resource monitoring strategies, within the context of mobile species conservation and development. This preliminary investigation will be used as a proof of method for larger and newer research endeavors. Citizen science, also known as public participation in scientific research, is an emerging area of research that relies on people within particular places to help collect social and biophysical data. The research objective, which citizen science will be relied upon as a method to achieve, is to identify the spatially and temporally explicit locations of wildlife and livestock at fine scales of space and time. The rationale for this research question stems from on-going debates within the literature on the nature of the relationships between wildlife and livestock within and around large protected areas. This debate, which has reached heightened proportions within recent years, is driven by the fact there is limited empirical evidence of the extent of spatial and temporal overlap between wildlife and livestock, at appropriates scales.
Savanna vegetation comprises a large percentage of the total land surface area in East Africa and savannas are important for the sustainability of millions of livestock keeping pastoralists and wildlife. The ecological processes underlying the dynamics of savanna vegetation are the result of interactions between moisture, nutrients, fire and herbivory. Recent research on these dynamics has yet to more fully consider how these determinants differ in areas where the overlap between wildlife and livestock is growing, or how precipitation gradients and increased climatic variability are likely to affect vegetation dynamics. The objective of this research is therefore to rely on experimental field studies, which incorporate more real-world conditions, in order to better understand vegetation dynamics of savannas. In order to achieve the objective, this research will query how the method of vegetative off-take matters for regrowth by relying on experimental treatments through enclosures across a precipitation gradient within the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem of East Africa. These treatments include: grazing by domestic cattle only; grazing by wildlife only; grazing by both domestic cattle and wildlife; lightly burning vegetative cover; and artificial clipping of vegetative cover. Three research questions are posed: (A) How do different off-take methods influence the structure and composition of savanna vegetation? (B) Are there significant differences in the nutritional composition of grasses under different off take scenarios? (C) How are these nutritional differences affected by precipitation gradients?
3. Long-Term Ecological Monitoring in the Maasai Mara (UM Startup Grant)
This project is a continuation of some of the earlier research on livestock movements and monitoring in and around the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Using a network of 28 monitoring plots, we are assessing how changes in both livestock and wildlife density affect species composition, percent cover, soil compaction, crude protein and neutral detergent fiber content of grasses. We are also looking to see how these variables are influenced by increasing climatic variability.
4. The spatiality of pastoral livelihood systems (NSF Biological Infrastructure)
This project is concerned with better understanding the spatiality of pastoral livelihood systems under regimes of climatic and political uncertainty. Investigations are aimed at understanding how the mobility of pastoral systems is changing with increased climatic uncertainty and the governance of rangelands. GPS collaring, social scientific surveys and GIS databases are being developed to delineate how changes in mobility are a reflection of these changes, and the extent to which these changes influence the resilience of dryland ecosystems.