My research team is responsible for the discovery of new information needed to manage and conserve threatened, endangered, and sensitive species throughout the Rocky Mountain Region. We consider the scientific and practical challenges of managing TES wildlife within a multi-use land-management context based on empirical field data. Current studies include:
I also lead an integrated research program that investigates how ferruginous hawks and other prairie raptors respond to energy development in sage-steppe ecosystems. Research topics include:
My current research interest concerns the management and conservation of Canada lynx, wolverines, and other sensitive species. Lynx and wolverine are highly mobile and depend on broad landscapes to meet their resource needs. Thus, my interest includes multi-scale evaluations of resource selection, forest carnivore movements and connectivity, factors affecting population viability, the effects of forest management, recreation and other human-induced impacts on species persistence, developing detection and monitoring methods for forest carnivores, and determining the effects of climate change on lynx and wolverine. I also have had a life-long interest in raptors and their management, and I am interested in helping agencies and industry develop energy reserves in ways that also facilitate raptor conservation.
My primary research themes include:
Throughout my career I have been interested in the conservation and management of threatened/endangered/sensitive species. My past research focused on habitat-use relationships of avian and mammalian species in sage steppe and forested ecosystems. I approach wildlife research from the perspective of collecting new empirical information from field studies that provide direct measures of animal movement and resource-use. In the late 1980’s, I investigated trumpeter swan behavior and resource-use in the Greater Yellowstone Areas, especially in and adjacent to Teton National Park. In the early 1990’s, I investigated nest selection and winter movements of northern goshawks. In the late 1990’s, I moved to Missoula, MT to initiate lynx studies in western Montana. In early 2000’s, I expanded my research to investigate wolverines in southcentral Montana. My studies focused on: the management and conservation needs of northern goshawks; patterns of wolverine mortality; seasonal evaluations of resource-use, denning, movements, and population connectivity of Canada lynx; and the development of detection and monitoring methods for mid-sized carnivores.
The conservation and management needs of mid-sized forest carnivores, like lynx and wolverine, were poorly understood for populations in the continental United States when I initiated my research in 1997. Land managers were in the difficult position of prescribing management actions without knowing impacts to these species. Forest carnivores are elusive and difficult to study so there still remains much to learn today. However, results from our studies informed land management across millions of acres of federal land in ways that balanced multi-use land management with forest carnivore conservation. We continue to provide new empirical information that is highly relevant to forest silviculture, fire management, recreation, species monitoring, and energy development. Winter recreation is a major industry that influences local economies across the western United States. The information from my studies directly address how lynx and wolverines respond to winter recreation so that recreation planners can promote winter outdoor sports in ways that minimize potential impacts to these sensitive carnivores.
The severity and frequency of high-elevation wildfires in lynx habitat increased sharply in the last decade across the western United States. Fire disturbance is expected to increase with climate change in much of the West, is now a major issue affecting the extent and distribution of lynx habitat in the Northern Rocky Mountians. Given the scale of fire and insect outbreaks in lynx habitat, our results are central to determining the ways that forest silviculture and management can provide tools that speed habitat recovery following these disturbances.
Although the public supports increased energy independence, the scale of energy development potentially impacts many sensitive species that depend on sage steppe ecosystems from direct disturbance or habitat loss. Our research is important because we provide empirical data regarding how ferruginous hawks and golden eagles respond to increased energy development. This information is central to identifying appropriate mitigation that reduces energy-related impacts to raptors, as we further develop domestic energy reserves.