Justin Brashares, Professor

Closed (1) Ecological Outcomes of Cannabis Legalization

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Increasing human development and urbanization in rural areas creates conflict with wildlife. Understanding the spatial components of human practices and socio-environmental responses can shed light on underlying ecological processes and outcomes for people and ecosystems.

In the Western US, 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 cannabis farms sustainably, more research is needed on the land use associated with cannabis and its affects on wildlife. This project uses observational and experimental wildlife monitoring data to understand the impact of this rapidly changing industry on the environment and local ecology.

We are seeking up to six students interested in field biology and wildlife to assist with the following tasks. Please indicate in your application which tasks you would like to assist with:

1) identifying and sorting remotely triggered camera photos of medium to large mammals
2) identifying and sorting remotely triggered camera photos of small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians
3) identifying and counting insects from sticky traps and preserved specimens from light traps
4) verifying bird audio calls

For a video presentation of the project see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo8mIX-wids

The student will sort camera trap photos and identify wildlife within them, and/or identify insect samples or bird calls. Camera sorting and bird identification can be done remotely on the student's own computer or a campus computer, while insect sorting will be done in a provided lab space. The student will train with project scientists and then work independently, while attending weekly group check-ins. Other tasks could include literature search, data entry, and data organization. Students may have the opportunity to assist with fieldwork during the semester, though this is not a primary task for the position.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Phoebe Parker-Shames, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: No experience required to apply. Depending on the tasks that the student signs up for, the following experience is preferred for each task: 1) previous experience identifying medium to large mammals. 2) previous experience identifying small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. 3) previous experience identifying insects to order. 4) previous experience with identifying birds from their calls. For each of these, preference will be for those with experience identifying species from Northern California. All students must have attention to detail and patience with repetitive tasks. Students will be expected to work independently while participating in weekly group check-ins. Hours per week will be negotiated but at least 6-8 hours per week is preferred.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

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

Closed (2) Wildlife Responses to California Wildfires

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Several aspects of global change are changing the dynamics of fire ecology across California and around the world. Recent fires have had devastating effects on livelihoods across the state, but little remains known of the direct and indirect impacts of these fires on wildlife species and the implications of those impacts for their future conservation.

The 2018 River Fire, the southern half of the Mendocino Complex (now the largest fire in California's history), entered the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) in late July and burned approximately 3,000 acres (over half of the center’s total acreage). The center is composed of a diverse range of habitat types including grassland, oak woodland, and chaparral, all represented by plant species characteristic of a mixed-severity fire regime. HREC is situated at an intersection of wildlands and ranchlands; it provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife and also serves as pastoral land for people and livestock. As is becoming increasingly common while human populations expand outward towards wilderness lands, HREC straddles landscapes for both wildlife and human settlement. These Urban-Wildland Interfaces have also received recent attention as being areas of high risk for future fires. As more of California begins to resemble Hopland and other WUIs, HREC presents itself as a unique and powerful opportunity to study the future implications of fire for the rest of the state and, perhaps, provide insights on how we can best build ecosystems resilient to this threat. We use a combination of biodiversity monitoring methods (camera traps, acoustic monitors, and ultrasonic monitors) to assess wildlife presence across this landscape.

To better understand the mechanisms of recovery in this system I plan to perform the following studies and ask these questions:

1. How are the distributions of species across the Hopland Research Center directly impacted by this recent wildfire?

2. How may the direct impacts on certain species impact the interactions between other species as well as the structure of ecological communities.

3. How may these interactions change over time in response to the environment recovering over time.

The student will be responsible for assisting in the organization of collected camera trap images. The student will sort camera trap photos and identify wildlife within them. This is the main focus for the URAP position and can be done remotely.

All work for this project can be done remotely, off campus.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Kendall Calhoun, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Students with skills in identifying medium-large sized mammals native to California is desired. Attention to detail and good organizational skills are required for cleaning camera trap data. Remote trainings will be provided for students participating.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: All work will be done remotely, but we'll plan to have regular check-ins via Zoom.

Related website: https://nature.berkeley.edu/BrasharesGroup/field-site-visits-wildfire-and-wildlife-in-california/

Closed (3) Wildlife in wine country: how do predator-prey interactions change in an increasingly fenced world?

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

Agricultural development and urbanization can constrict wildlife movement for some species, while expanding foraging opportunities for others. In northern California, the expansion of vineyard and cannabis production has led to the proliferation of fences to deter wildlife. Surprisingly, the extent and permeability of industrial fences to wildlife movement is relatively unknown.

This project will use satellite and wildlife activity data to understand whether increasing fence density leads to altered community-level composition and predator-prey overlap.


We are seeking up to two students interested in using remote sensing to assist with identifying fences from satellite imagery, and potentially other data gathered from the field.

The student will use LiDAR data to identify fences in Sonoma County, and potentially compare results to automatic classifications. This is the main focus for the URAP position and can be done remotely. Depending on the expertise of the student, they can also assist in using Object Based Image Analysis (OBIA) to identify fences using automatic classification. The student will train with project scientists and then work independently. The output of this project will be a map shared with policy makers at the Sonoma County Agriculture and Open Space District.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Amy Van Scoyoc, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Experience in one of these categories preferred (but not required): 1) previous experience using GIS or 2) previous experience using a object-oriented programming language (Javascript, Python, or R). All students must have attention to detail and patience with very repetitive tasks. Students will be expected to work independently.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: All training will be conducted remotely, and the student does not need to be located on campus for this URAP project.

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

Closed (4) Multidisciplinary Mapping: Human-carnivore conflict and carnivore movement in Rift Valley, Kenya

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

Human-carnivore conflict is an ongoing critical issue around the world. In East Africa, instances of human-carnivore conflict are rising with increases in land subdivision, development, and agro-pastoral settlement in historical wildlife dispersal areas. This dynamic of rising habitat fragmentation, loss of habitat, and consequently increasing rates of conflict is prevalent in the wildlife dispersal areas connecting Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya with the nearby Mau Forest, Eburru Forest, and Lake Elmenteita regions.

This study incorporates remote sensing, GPS and camera trap data, and community participatory mapping to improve our understanding of landscape permeability for large carnivores, the dynamics of human-carnivore conflict and risk perception, and the intersection between human and carnivore resource needs. Using these methods, we address the following questions:

1) What are the driving spatial and social correlates in carnivore tolerance and how carnivore conflict risk is perceived?
2) Do verified instances of human-carnivore conflict differ from perceived conflict, and what are the driving spatial factors in these differences?
3) How do dense settlements and activity, fences, and seasonal fluctuations in landscape permeability influence the movements of spotted hyena (heavily implicated in human-carnivore conflict)?

Using multidisciplinary spatial methods will help us to contribute to our theoretical understanding of social and spatial factors influencing human-carnivore conflict, risk perception, and carnivore movement ecology in developed landscapes, while providing insight into the effectiveness of multidisciplinary and participatory methods for conservation.

We are seeking 2-4 students to assist with various tasks related to this project.

The primary set of tasks will be related to the community participatory mapping aspect of the research project. Tasks will include digitizing participatory maps, creating shapefiles from digitized maps, incorporating demographic and interview data into attribute tables associated with shapefiles, and conducting preliminary descriptive spatial analyses.

Other secondary tasks may include sorting and reviewing camera trap images (from cameras located on the national park fence), recording wildlife sightings and carnivore movements in an excel spreadsheet, conducting preliminary analyses on camera trap images, and remote sensing classification of seasonal land cover in the region.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Christine Wilkinson, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Applicants should be interested in the social aspects of wildlife conservation, and interested in wildlife ecology and movement. Applicants should also have an excitement to learn about multidisciplinary and participatory methods. Required skills: Applicants should have competence in Microsoft Excel, some experience with the basics of ArcGIS/ArcMap (simple navigation abilities through the software is enough), an ability to work independently, a keen eye for detail, and patience with repetitive tasks. Desirable additional skills: Experience with art, tracing, or other activities that require a very steady hand is a plus. Applicants must not be colorblind.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated