Landscape Spatial Dynamics
Our lab is interested in a breadth of landscape-scale spatial dynamics: How do abiotic factors – things like temperature, precipitation, or soil conditions (i.e., bioclimatic or potential niche) – influence species presence? In turn, how do biotic interactions – things like predation, competition or mutualisms (i.e., realized niche) – determine where and when species are accessing natural resources? At what scale are abiotic or biotic factors more or less impactful on species distributions and connectivity? These questions have important implications in understanding the natural history, ecology, and appropriate management of wildlife. For example, both land use change and climate change are anticipated to alter some species' geographic locations. Yet we still do not know whether their biotic interdependencies, determined by their intra- and inter-specific interactions, will become unraveled (i.e., community disassembly) or if ecological communities will move as intact units. The goal of work in the Schmitz lab is to infuse greater consideration of biotic mechanisms—resolved with localized experimental research conducted in the field—into geographic scale modeling of species range distributions.
Assessment of potential influencers of jaguar occupancy in the Madidi Protected Area
Courtney’s research, in cooperation with the Bolivian chapter of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Yale F&ES colleague Amy Zuckerwise, is using camera trap data to assess the occupancy of jaguar across three sites in the greater Madidi region. She will evaluate both abiotic (topography, hydrology) and biotic factors (prey availability, human presence) as possible predictors of jaguar occupancy. This work has potential to lead to more efficient monitoring and population assessments, as well as inform managers of possible trends.