The Research Team
(In Alphabetical Order)

Learn more about each team member by clicking on the links below:

Justine Cordingley

Justine Cordingley works as Project Manager for research on plains zebra movement, social organization, and population dynamics. She carries out and helps design all aspects of fieldwork on Ol Pejeta Conservancy and manages project databases. Using field data, Justine provides estimates of zebra population size and survival rates for Ol Pejeta managers. Justine is also an employee of Ol Pejeta, for which she tracks population size and demography of spotted hyena, hartbeest, lion, and oryx.

Ilya Fischhoff

Ilya is a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University and McMaster University. Ilya’s research seeks to understand how animals make decisions in the wild. How do individuals learn about change in locations, and use their past experiences in choosing where to go? In social species, each individual in a group may have different experiences and needs, resulting in their having different preferences about what to do and where to go. How do individuals interact to resolve their preferences and make a coordinated group movement? Answering these questions is important to predicting how populations will respond to changes in their landscape. For species like Grevy's zebra and plains zebra, whose needs can conflict with those of people, addressing these questions will allow us to devise better strategies for coexistence.    

Ilya completed his PhD at Princeton University in March 2007. His PhD research addressed how plains zebra make movement decisions in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. He examined how leadership roles in group movements relate to resource needs and the stability of social relationships. A second part of the study showed that plains zebra modify their movements in danger from lions. Using landscape-level manipulative experiments, Ilya found that zebras bias their movements to revisit a location that has suddenly changed in its resource value. Contact: ifischho@princeton.edu

Heather Larkin

Heather Larkin designed this website, including the Action Tracker movement data visualization. She did her Princeton undergraduate thesis research on leadership in plains zebra harems. Check out more of her work at: www.larkinheather.com. Contact: alpestris@gmail.com.



Daniel Rubenstein

My research focuses on decision-making in animals. I study how an individual's foraging, mating and social behavior are influenced by its phenotype, by ecological circumstances, and by the actions of other individuals in the population. I develop simple mathematical models to generate predictions that can be tested using data gathered from structured field observations or experimental manipulations. In this way I search for general principles, or "rules", that underlie complex patterns of behavior.

Much of my recent research on the adaptive value of behavior has centered on understanding the social dynamics of equids—horses, zebras and asses. My studies have shown that as the distributions of forage and water change, the patterns of female movement and association change. In turn, the ways in which males compete to mate with females also change. Thus ecological features play a large role in shaping equid core social groups.

Melding both functional and mechanistic approaches to studying animal behavior is an important problem in the emerging area of "Biocomplexity" and is one that requires interdisciplinary studies that cut across many scales. My latest research focuses on one such problem—the rules governing animal movements and migration—and involves the interaction of "self-organizing" behavioral movement rules, ecological information, and habitat structure at multiple spatial scales to understand how migratory animal movements respond to human induced land use change and how these changes in movement in turn affect population stability. Conservation implications are actively being explored, especially with respect to the way water dynamics shapes movements of zebras, other wildlife and livestock herds. Contact: dir@princeton.edu. Rubenstein lab website

Siva Sundaresan

Siva is a postdoctoral researcher for the Denver Zoological Foundation and the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department at Princeton University. Siva is interested in the movements and population dynamics of endangered large mammals. He currently focuses on Grevy's zebra in Kenya and onagers in India. Many large mammals must navigate a landscape mosaic of protected areas and human-dominated properties. Movements are an important behavioral mechanism by which individuals respond to resources, competitors, predators and people. How do individuals move among areas with varying resources and dangers, both natural and anthropogenic? How do an individual’s movements affect its survival and reproduction? By tracking individuals and estimating population vital rates in relation to human activities we can identify measures that will preserve endangered species while meeting human needs.

Siva received his PhD from Princeton University in January, 2007. For his PhD, he compared the societies of Grevy's zebra in Kenya and the Asiatic onager of India. Using network theory, he determined how the two populations differ in their association patterns, in ways that are consistent with their distinctive ecological settings. Behavioral observations of Grevy's zebra showed that male harassment of lactating females contributes to their having more constrained movements relative to nonlactating females. Siva identified a significant effect of livestock presence on Grevy's zebra locations. Grevy's tend to stay away from active livestock corrals. His current research investigates why this is so and ways that people might reduce their impact on Grevy's zebra.