I have over 20-years experience studying the behavioural ecology of large herbivores and the effects of human disturbance on wildlife. There are currently four main themes to my research:
Behavioural ecology of African elephants
I have explored various aspects of elephant behaviour since undertaking my MSc at the University of Kent, Canterbury in 2000. This has included mapping elephant pathways to discern how artificial water points can play a key role in habitat utilisation, investigating the influence of sexual dimorphism on foraging and movement behaviour and the role of age and experience in the handling of detailed ecological and social knowledge. Current work focuses on using GPS collar data to explore movement behaviour, particularly strategies used by elephant family groups during periods of resource scarcity.
Deer in human transformed environments
The UK deer population has grown rapidly over the past four decades due to an increase in woodland cover, milder winters, changing farming practices, greater connectivity of green spaces and an absence of natural predators. Deer are an integral component of the British countryside that provide an important contribution to biodiversity and ecological function. However, elevated densities have been linked to negative impacts on woodland vegetation. Our research currently focuses on modelling the distribution and expansion of the roe deer population in Wales, while future projects will explore drivers of individual movement across different temporal and spatial scales in roe and fallow deer.
The influence of large herbivores on habitat structure and ecosystem function
Large herbivores play a key role in shaping habitats and ecosystems through their foraging and trampling behaviour as well as through nutrient cycling. However, understanding the complex relationships between animal behaviour and ecosystem function can be very challenging. Furthermore, there are often concerns over the potential negative impacts associated with elevated densities of large herbivores. My previous research has focussed on African elephants, fire and the utilisation of large savanna trees. I am also keen to explore the effects (positive and negative) of deer on woodland habitats in the UK.
The effects of noise on animal behaviour and wildlife ecology
Anthropogenic noise is widespread and on the increase. Over recent years there has been growing concern about the potential impacts that elevated noise levels might have in both marine and terrestrial environments. In 2012, I embarked upon a research project at Colorado State University funded by the National Park Service, which explored the behavioural responses of prairie dogs to road noise - one of the first studies noise studies to focus on a free-ranging terrestrial mammal.This collaboration is continuing and I also plan to expand my research to focus on the impacts of noise and light on a range of taxa from birds to amphibians.