Friday, May 18, 2012

Who are we? (Part 2)

Hello folks, I'm Taal Levi...

I'm about to finish my PhD (7 days until my exit talk!) and begin a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellowship to study how interactions among carnivores influence ecosystems and the emergence of human diseases.

I'm kind of a math geek and transitioned into the exciting field of ecology after messing around with physics for a bit. I've worked in different biomes around the world. Much of my research takes place in the Amazon basin, where I study how to manage and map the impacts of hunting on large primates and other wildlife. I spent last year in Haines, Alaska using motion sensitive cameras to record wildlife use of spawning salmon (Check out our blog from last year I'm also interested in fisheries management and conservation biology. In general, I like to use quantitative methods to address applied problems, particularly those related to wildlife management and conservation. I like working with hunters and fishermen, who often have unique insight about how ecological systems are operating.

I love to think about all the interesting ways that carnivores (and humans) interact. For example, in Alaska, coyotes are a new and expanding member of the carnivore community. They have reached Alaska and spread prolifically because their main competitor - the wolf - no longer dominates the landscape. How do coyotes influence the snowshoe hare population and might this hurt the lynx that depend on snowshoe hare? If coyotes are subsidized by salmon, does this make them very abundant and an even more potent competitor? How does salmon influence other components of the ecosystem and how might fisheries affect these interactions? Is the late Chilkat river salmon run particularly important for supporting the regional eagle population? Might eagles that breed from as far away as Washington or the Rocky Mountains depend on this salmon run? All fantastically interesting questions!

I'm very excited by our new social and scientific experiment. The social experiment is to see if we can combine science and art with crowd-sourced funding (Thank You Kickstarter!). The science is to find out (among other things) where the world's largest congregation of bald eagles comes from before they arrive at the Chlkat river to feed on salmon. We have 4 GPS backpacks to place on eagles, but we need your help to make this happen!

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