Friday, May 18, 2012

Who are we? (Part 3)

Hey there! My name is Rachel Wheat. I grew up on the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and have long been fascinated with wildlife and the natural world. I've worked on a variety of field projects, from researching tree squirrels in Colorado to sage-grouse in Wyoming to gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to be starting this newest research project to study salmon-wildlife interactions near Haines, Alaska!
I'm primarily interested in spatial ecology-- that is, looking at how individual animals move throughout their habitat and travel among different resources. It's one reason I'm so excited about our upcoming research project. We're going to be attaching GPS units to bald eagles to see where and when they travel to find salmon! The information we gather on each eagles' movements will help us understand just how important salmon are to the ways and distances eagles migrate.

As a predator ecologist and conservation biologist, I am also interested in the interactions between large carnivores (such as bears and wolves), and mesocarnivores (medium-sized carnivores), such as lynx, mink, martin, and ermine, and the ways in which these different carnivore groups partition salmon resources. We know a lot about how grizzly bears depend on salmon, but what about smaller-sized carnivores? And how do the interactions among different carnivore species affect salmon consumption and scavenging?

I'm currently a PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the lab of Dr. Chris Wilmers, who will be helping to support our Alaskan research. In addition to my research, I'm an avid photographer, a strong proponent of environmental education, a competitive barrel racer, a hobbyist dog trainer, and a long-time vegetarian. If you're interested in learning more about me and my work, please visit my website!

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