Research in the WildCo Lab is motivated by the fundamental question of how best to conserve, manage, and restore biodiversity in a rapidly changing, human-dominated world. Our research aims to be grounded in ecological principles and quantitative rigour, while incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives that are a critical part of conservation science. We have diverse research interests that centre broadly on the applied ecology of terrestrial mammal populations, communities, and habitats.
We recognize that our research takes place on the traditional territories of many Indigenous Peoples (in western and northern Canada and around the world) and we aspire to meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities and support of reconciliation efforts through the implementation and application of our research. We emphasize the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in research and academia, and we aspire to practice and support collaborative, inclusive, and open science.
Our current research themes include:
Mammal community dynamics in altered ecosystems
Despite their important ecological and cultural roles and values, many terrestrial mammal populations are threatened by a range of anthropogenic stressors, including hunting, habitat loss, and climate change. Other mammals successfully exploit anthropogenic environments due to changes in habitat suitability or predation pressure. Wildlife management has typically focused on single-species assessments and actions, yet a fuller accounting of wildlife “winners and losers” is needed for effective landscape-level conservation. Our research looks across species, scales, and stressors to seek general principles in wildlife population regulation and community structure within altered ecosystems. We use multispecies survey tools and coordinated distributed surveys to capitalize on large-scale management experiments, both planned and unplanned.
Coexisting with large carnivores
Large mammalian carnivores represent a particular challenge for wildlife management. They can generate significant support for conservation and their loss may cause cascading effects through an ecosystem. However, carnivore populations require large, interconnected habitats with abundant prey, and frequently create conflict with remote or expanding human communities. Coexisting with carnivores therefore requires a landscape-level perspective alongside effective approaches for resolving conflicts and mitigating risks to people and prey. Navigating inevitable trade-offs necessitates reliable information on carnivore ecology in degraded and managed landscapes, as well as on human behaviours and tolerance of carnivores.
Our current and recent carnivore coexistence projects include:
Wildlife population estimation and monitoring
Reliable data on animal distribution and abundance are required to advance ecological inquiry and guide wildlife management. Data must be collected at appropriately large spatial and temporal scales to capture relevant processes for wide-ranging species and regional planning. Robust models are needed to project inferences into unsampled space and time, and inherent uncertainty must be transparently acknowledged and ultimately reduced. To strengthen inferences on wildlife dynamics, research in the WildCo Lab evaluates and integrates multiple sampling methods—including camera trapping, genetic tagging, remote sensing, and telemetry—and uses comparative analysis and simulation modelling to separate ecological signals from sampling noise. We apply advanced quantitative tools—such as spatially explicit capture-recapture and machine learning models—to disentangle complexities inherent in ecological data, and we collect new data designed to test model predictions. Our lab has a strong interest in improving the effectiveness of ecological monitoring and we are working to develop and implement a framework combining broad surveillance of cumulative effects with targeted assessments of hypotheses linked to management decisions. Our research also focuses on evaluating and effectively using participatory monitoring and citizen science to expand coverage and engage the public in wildlife science.
A key focus of our methodological research focuses on the effective use of camera trapping as a non-invasive wildlife survey tool. We have helped to launch a new camera trap network (WildCAM) to develop, test, and share rigorous methods for improving standardization and synthesis across camera trap studies.
We are also interested in developing effective biodiversity monitoring systems across large spatial scales. A particular current focus includes deployment of sensor networks (camera traps, acoustic recorders) for monitoring of Indigenous Conserved and Protected Areas in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
Assessing and advancing conservation effectiveness