Justin Brashares, Professor

Closed (1) Environmental Impacts of Human Development and Urbanization in the West

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

Increasing human development and urbanization in rural areas creates conflict with wildlife. Understanding the spatial components of both human practices and environmental responses can shed light on the underlying ecological processes. Our group is working on two projects that approach these components from different angles in the West Coast of the US.

Project 1: In Southern Oregon, the effects of cannabis legalization has drastically altered rural livelihoods and land use. In order to understand the effects of policy frameworks on the environment, predict future outcomes, and manage grows sustainably, more research is needed on the land use associated with cannabis. This project uses remotely sensed imagery, paired with grower surveys and ecological field research, to understand the impact of this rapidly changing industry on the environment and local ecology.

Project 2: In the Lake Tahoe region of California, urban/wild American Black Bears navigate landscapes altered by humans. This project looks at movement and behavior data to identify highway crossings, den selection, and habitat preferences, using GIS mapping and critter cam footage.

We are seeking one or two interdisciplinary students interested in environmental science, policy, ecology, animal behavior, and geography to assist with this mapping, analysis, and literature review. If applicants have a particular interest in one project or the other, please indicate that in the application.

Project 1: The student will assist with mapping and analysis of land use change and environmental impacts of the cannabis industry in Southern Oregon. The student will map grows in Google Earth, analyze land use change over time in GIS and R, and collect background information on the policies and zoning affecting land use.

Project 2: The student will use GIS to map bear highway crossings and den selection, and conduct behavioral analyses of camera trap data to identify habitat use and behavioral modes of bears. The student will also assist with literature searches.

For both projects, the student will train with project scientists and then work independently.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Phoebe Parker-Shames, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Previous experience with GIS. Experience in R preferred but not required. Much have attention to detail and patience with repetitive tasks.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: https://nature.berkeley.edu/BrasharesGroup/

Closed (2) Ecology and Conservation of the Endangered Giant Kangaroo Rat in Central California

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

The Carrizo Plain National Monument, located in the southern San Joaquin Valley of California, is the largest (810 km2) of the few remaining San Joaquin grassland ecosystem remnants and is a hotspot of species endangerment. Many of the imperiled species in the San Joaquin Valley occur in the Carrizo. The federally endangered giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens) is a keystone species in this system; it modifies the soil extensively with burrow systems and is important prey for many predators, such as the federally endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica). 

Our group is leading a long-term study of the giant kangaroo rat with the goals to: 1) determine how livestock grazing directly and indirectly affects native species in the Carrizo, especially giant kangaroo rats, 2) determine how giant kangaroo rats affect other species of plants and animals in their community, and 3) understand impacts of climate change on vegetation and giant kangaroo rats. 

Work will include data entry and basic processing of samples (drying and weighing, etc) and invertebrate identification.

URAPs may also be assigned to data management and review and field work.

There will be a Labor Day field trip to the Carrizo to collect vegetation samples. All URAPs are invited to attend.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Rachel Endicott

Qualifications: We seek motivated students who are interested in Wildlife Ecology and eager to learn! Skills required: Interest in wildlife ecology. Comfortable performing repetitive tasks initiated towards the goal of data production. Attention to detail and capacity to execute tasks carefully. Willingness to learn all aspects of a research project and ability to work independently. Preferred: Background in ecology, animal behavior, or environmental science preferred. Familiarity with basic laboratory equipment such as digital scales is helpful but not required. Experience with database software such as Access and Excel also are helpful but not required In your response, please indicate if you are interested in the Labor Day field trip.

Weekly Hours: 6-9 hrs

Related website: https://nature.berkeley.edu/BrasharesGroup/

Closed (3) Wildlife ecology in human dominated landscapes: deer and other large mammals in Mendocino County

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

In an era so altered by human activity it has been dubbed the Anthropocene, scientists have a surprisingly poor understanding of the ecology of human-dominated landscapes. The Brashares lab is conducting research at the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) in Mendocino County to study how a wildlife community of deer and their predators (mountain lions, bears, and coyotes) respond to human landscape features and activities. In collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, we are placing special emphasis on an in-depth study of the deer population of HREC. Although deer populations are declining statewide, we lack inexpensive, non-invasive methods for monitoring deer densities.

To monitor diversity, abundance, movement, and behavior of deer and other large mammals, our research group has deployed an array of motion-activated “camera traps” that take photos and videos of wildlife at HREC. We plan to deploy GPS collars on large mammals later this year, to monitor community-level responses to anthropogenic disturbances like fences, hunting, farming, and ranching and to better understand deer habitat use. We are also beginning a genetic mark-recapture study to estimate deer populations, using deer trail transects to collect fecal samples for DNA extraction.

We are seeking 1-2 students to assist us with various tasks associated with various research tasks related to the HREC project.

Primarily, the URAP apprentices will work on the ongoing camera trap assessment of Hopland's large mammal community. The majority of the work will be independent classification of images from camera traps. There will also be opportunities for fieldwork at Hopland, which is a 2 hour drive from campus. There may be additional opportunities for genetic labwork on campus, if students are interested.

Tasks include, but are not limited to: reviewing photos and videos from camera traps and entering data into spreadsheets; analyzing camera trap data to summarize species presence; extracting deer DNA from fecal samples and genotyping samples to identify individuals; and traveling to Hopland with other team members to set up and maintain camera traps, collect fecal samples, and participate in other research related to collaring and wildlife research.

The student(s) will join an existing research team of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty and participate in regular project meetings. This project will give the student a chance to engage in a larger research project on wildlife management in California, with potential opportunity for future involvement in other aspects of the research program.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Alex McInturff, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Applicants should have a keen interest in wildlife ecology and in conservation of California's landscapes. Relevant majors or coursework (ex. ESPM 114) are preferred but not required. Applicants should be competent in Microsoft Excel, be able to work independently with patience and diligence, and pay close attention to detail. Experience with data entry and data management preferred. Experience with R analysis software would be a plus, but is not a requirement.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: http://nature.berkeley.edu/BrasharesGroup/
Related website: http://hrec.ucanr.edu/

Closed (4) Using remote camera traps to monitor large mammals in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

In Gorongosa National Park, a restoration effort has greatly enhanced wildlife populations following their dramatic declines during Mozambique’s civil war. Despite great success, many species remain below their pre-war numbers. Planning for the future of this dynamic system requires an understanding of ecological and human drivers of wildlife distribution and population trends. In this project, we are using camera traps to monitor Gorongosa’s wildlife. Data from these cameras will generate models to assess the determinants of large mammal distribution in space and time, examine species interaction dynamics, and improve our understanding of population trajectories.

We are seeking students to assist with the classification, organization, and analysis of thousands of images of large mammals from 60 camera traps. Students will work independently to identify animals in thousands of photographs, and have the potential to get involved in data analysis and other projects related to Gorongosa’s wildlife.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Kaitlyn Gaynor, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Students should have an interest in wildlife ecology and a desire to learn about African mammals. Organization and attention to detail a must! No previous research experience required.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: https://nature.berkeley.edu/BrasharesGroup/
Related website: http://www.wildcamgorongosa.org/