Current Research

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Collaborative Research Projects

Much of my current research involves collaborating with my graduate students on their current research projects.  Please see Lab Members page for descriptions of these projects.

Habitat fragmentation and the genetic structure of animal communities

I am continuing my work using population genetics to understand connectivity and population structure in the context of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation.  One of the goals of this work is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the effect of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation on the genetic structure of a local native vertebrate community here in southern California.  We will first select representative species from the local community and examine different aspects of their behavior relating to movements, dispersal, and habitat use.  We will then use genetic tools to examine population structure and connectivity in relation to natural landscape features and anthropogenic barriers.  This work will give us a better understanding of how different species living in the same ecosystem are impacted by local anthropogenic barriers such as roads and development.  By understanding details of how behavioral differences between species lead to differences in population responses to the same set of anthropogenic pressures, we hope to optimize management and mitigation efforts designed to protect local biodiversity.

Predator-prey interactions between venomous snakes and small mammals

I am also conducting research on the foraging behavior of rattlesnakes, with an emphasis on predator-prey signaling interactions between venomous snakes and small mammals.  This project involves collaborations between my lab and the labs of Dr. Richard Coss and Dr. Sanjay Joshi at UC Davis. We are currently focusing on interactions between California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) and Northern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus), as well as interactions between desert kangaroo rats (Dipodomys deserti) and sidewinder rattlesnakes (Crotalus cerastes) and mojave rattlesnakes (Crotalus scutulatus). Note that all of our work in this area builds upon the research careers of two other groups that have produced an amazing body of work in this area:  (1) The ground squirrel/rattlesnake work of Richard Coss from UC Davis, along with his long-time friend and collaborator, the late, great Don Owings; (2) the kangaroo rat/snake work of Jan Randall from San Francisco State University. 

For more information, please see our project website.