Humans and wildlife come into conflict everyday. These interactions come in many forms, from bears sifting through residential garbage bins to tiger predation on livestock to humans hunting elephants for their ivory tusks. These interactions have the potential to impact the lives of both humans and wildlife, livelihoods, cultures, and more. As such, the goal of research in the lab is to develop insights and principles about the interplay between humans and wildlife, when and where they come into conflict, in order to develop practical guidance about ways that humans and nonhuman species can coexist fairly harmoniously on domesticated landscapes.
Lion population connectivity and co-existence with humans Researcher: Mary
Mary's research examines human-wildlife conflict in the Maasai Steppe of northern Tanzania. Recent human population increases and shifts in livelihood needs have resulted in land use change - the largest contributing factor to habitat degradation and fragmentation in the region. One species particularly charismatic to tourists - the African lion - is embroiled in conflict with locals. Lion predation on livestock remains an issue and, while conservation organizations are working to minimize lion-livestock encounters, the concern for lion connectivity remains.
Mary is using a landscape genetics approach to study lion connectivity and genetic diversity - two key factors to species longevity. She is looking at how landscape features (land cover type, infrastructure, etc.), environmental variables (temperature, rainfall, etc.), and human impacts (population density, tolerance to lions, etc.) influence lion movement and gene flow. Mary is developing coexistence landscape maps, an integrative approach that utilizes multidisciplinary data collection. The objective is to offer landscape management strategies that seek to minimize human-lion conflict and maximize land use benefits to both humans and wildlife.