zebra stripe    
     
     
 



 
  Tyler Kartzinel  
  Tyler Kartzinel  
     
  Dave Pappano  
  Dave Pappano  
     
  Megan McSherry  
  Megan McSherry  
     
  Andrew S. Gersick  
  Andy Gersick  
   
     
  Kaia Tombak  
  Kaia Tombak  
     
  Jennifer Schieltz  
  Jennifer Schieltz  
     
  Qing Cao  
  Qing Cao  
     
     
   
     
     
   
     
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
   
     
   
   
     
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Princeton University

Link to 'Former Team Members'

Tyler Kartzinel, Postdoctoral Research Associate. My research focuses on how and why species interact in different ways at different times. I combine large-scale field experiments with molecular tools to uncover general evolutionary and ecological processes that are otherwise difficult to observe. Working with the Pringle and Rubenstein labs at Princeton, and with The Nature Conservancy, one of my goals is to understand how diverse assemblages of large herbivores—wild and domestic, endangered and abundant—can coexist in a world of limited resources. You can find more information at my website: http://www.princeton.edu/~tylerk/
 
Dave Pappano, Postdoctoral Research Associate. I am a behavioral ecologist broadly interested in how ecological factors mediate cooperation and competition within animal groups. My postdoctoral research applies network analyses to movement and association patterns of geladas (Theropithecus gelada)— a grass-eating cercopithecine primate endemic to the Ethiopian highlands. Geladas live in a modular society where differentiated social relationships and limited vocal recognition may force individuals to make movement decisions based on both ‘local’ rules and ’social’ knowledge. My current research explores how these two types of information (local and social) interact to produce emergent behavior such as group fission-fusions and collective movement. I conduct this research in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Michigan, Princeton University, and the University of Illinois-Chicago. Previously, I investigated the behavioral and hormonal factors that influence reproductive trajectories of bachelor male geladas (Ph.D. Biological Anthropology 2013, University of Michigan).
 
Megan McSherry, Postdoctoral Research Associate
My research interests center around the conservation of coupled human-natural systems, with a focus on grasslands and the people and biodiversity they support. As a NatureNet Fellow, my postdoctoral research explores how different grazing management practices affect the storage or loss of carbon in grassland soils. While studies suggest that grazer effects on soil carbon are highly context-dependent, an interesting finding from my previous work showed that these effects are influenced, in part, by an interaction between the dominant grass type of the system and the level of grazing intensity imposed on it. Building off of this finding, I am comparing management strategies and grazer effects on soil carbon across two different grassland types, in northern Kenya and in the Patagonia region of Argentina, in order to hopefully provide initial evidence to determine the future potential for large scale carbon credit projects in these regions. Click here for my personal website.
 
Andrew S. Gersick, Postdoctoral Research Associate
I study the impacts of social and physical environments on the evolution of animal communication systems. In the Rubenstein Lab I will be investigating the role of multimodal signals in competitive and affiliative relationships among zebras and other equids. In my fieldwork with spotted hyenas (with Drs Dorothy Cheney, Kay Holekamp and Robert Seyfarth in the Masai Mara, Kenya), I found that long-distance “whoop” vocalizations help hyenas coordinate collective responses to threats from lions, despite a fission-fusion social system that disperses hyena clans over territories that can be up to 1000 km2. In aviary work with brown-headed cowbirds (with Dr. David White), I studied how males’ courtship strategies and courtship songs respond to changes in the social complexity of flocks and the intensity of male-male competition. Ultimately I’m interested in how the survival strategies, social structures and communication systems of different species (including humans) all shape one another over evolutionary time.
 
Graduate Students
 
Kaia Tombak, Graduate student. Considering the escalating changes in climate, habitat, and ecological communities occurring at a global scale, behavioural plasticity is likely to be important for the long-term persistence of a species. Social species can adjust their group size and social structure to survive environmental changes such as fluctuating resource availability or predation risk. I study the extent of flexibility in social behaviour in a highly generalist and gregarious taxon: the equids. We know that a single equid species can endure an exceptionally wide array of environmental conditions because the ranges they occupy (or occupied until recently) are among the most extensive of all terrestrial herbivores. But how does an individual, group, or population adjust their social behaviour to cope with varying levels of rainfall, predation, competition, and human land use changes? I hope to tackle this question by studying two equids with fundamentally different social systems. My thesis work compares the flexibility in social structure across groups of Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) and plains zebra (Equus burchelli) in multiple sites where they coexist. This research may help us to understand how we can manage land in and around wildlife reserves to allow a diversity of species to survive in the long term. It will also help to elucidate why some species (like the Grévy’s zebra) are endangered, while others (like the plains zebra) are faring well. Finally, my work seeks to determine how the social behaviour of a species feeds back into the ecosystem by affecting its interactions with other species, shaping its ecological niche.
 
Jennifer Schieltz, Graduate student. I am interested in mammalian behavioral ecology and conservation, particularly human-wildlife interaction. My research investigates wildlife populations and their interactions with their environment, focusing on how human land use practices affect animal behavior. I am currently studying how cattle grazing influences the behavior of various wild grazers on Kenyan rangelands. This is an important question because forty percent of the earth’s land surface is currently used for grazing domestic animals. These lands are also vitally important for conservation as they can provide a means to preserve open space to sustain wildlife outside of national parks. In some areas, it appears that cattle and wildlife can live side-by-side. However, many issues must be considered and managed properly in order to allow wildlife and livestock to coexist. Therefore, I hope to conduct research that not only furthers ecological theory, but has practical implications for wildlife conservation and management as well.
 
Qing Cao, Graduate student. I am interested in the animal behavioral ecology and community ecology in the savanna-steppe ecosystem. In particular, my current research focuses on the resource use and niche differentiation of two sympatric equids (horse-like species) in Asia, the released Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) and the indigenous Asiatic wild ass (E. hemionus). The niche differentiation driven by present competition is very rare and has been difficult to observe, especially in large mammals. Reintroducing once extinct species back to its original habitat may provide a good chance to examine how its realized niches form from the interspecific competition with another species with the similar resource requirements. My colleagues and I are working in Kalamaili Nature Reserve, using automatic camera traps and satellite telemetry in combine with observations to look at: 1) what are the fundamental and realized niches of the two equids, especially in food and water use, 2) how does the competition drive their resource use patterns, and 3) what kind of niche differentiations could allow the coexistence of the two species? For more information, please contact me at qcao 'at' princeton [dot] edu.
 
TBD, Graduate student.
 
TBD, Graduate student.
 
TBD Graduate student.
 
TBD, Visiting Student Research Collaborators
 
TBD, Visiting Student Research Collaborators
 

Visit Former Team Members page.

   
 
   
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