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Dr. Dan Thornton's Mammal Spatial Ecology and Conservation Lab

CURRENT RESEARCH FOCI

FELID CONSERVATION

I am currently working on building a better understanding of lynx populations in Washington State and how they may potentially respond to climate and land cover change. This work includes extensive field work in Washington to examine lynx distribution, density, and interactions with other carnivores, and to develop a methodology for large-scale, long-term monitoring of lynx in the state. My lab recently started a second lynx distribution study in Glacier National Park. I am also working on transboundary coordination with Canadian partners to improve cross-border collaboration and integration of datasets. As part of this work, I am collaborating with Trent University on a project in southern BC that seeks to understand cross-border movement, niche ecology, and connectivity of lynx. Lynx work is being funded by NSF, USFWS, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, and Washington State University. My lab is also engaged in projects to better understand jaguar response to hunting and forest fragmentation in Guatemala and Honduras.

climate change

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SPATIAL ANALYSES TO IMPROVE CONSERVATION OUTCOMES ACROSS BORDERS

A new key theme of my research is examining transboundary ecology and conservation of mammals. Although much thinking in conservation occurs at national or smaller scales, protection of wide-ranging species in the face of extensive changes to ecosystem will necessitate a cross-border, multi-country approach. I am leading several large-scale spatial analyses to improve conservation planning for carnivores and other large mammals, including:

  • evaluating the usefulness of a range-wide jaguar conservation plan (complete, see publications in Biological Conservation and Ecological Applications in 2016)
  • documenting discrepancies in cross border protection of carnivores and other species within the Americas – see 2018 publication in Conservation Letters and 2019 publication in Diversity and Distributions
  • examining distribution of protected areas in the Americas, and how that informs transborder conservation
  • as part of work funded by USFWS Wildlife Without Borders program, I am working to integrate datasets across multiple partners to develop distribution models of white-lipped and collared peccaries across the countries of Mesoamerica to document current status of these species
  • an assessment of the utility of private protected areas (conservation easements) for the protection of threatened and endangered species in North America.

IMPROVING SURVEY TECHNIQUES FOR CARNIVORES AND OTHER MAMMALS

Given the difficulties of predicting how species will respond to the raft of environmental changes occurring (climate change, forest fire, etc.), large-scale monitoring will be fundamental to successful management and conservation in the 21st century. However, reliably surveying carnivores and other large mammals at appropriate scales for conservation is difficult. Much  of our work in this area involves large-scale camera trapping efforts, including efforts to design camera-based monitoring of high elevation forest carnivore communities in Washington (in collaboration with the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle), and efforts to use cameras to document “defaunation” in neotropical forests. Two other current projects seek to use and validate recently developed techniques to generate density estimates of unmarked animals. We are applying these approaches with deer and snowshoe hare in Washington.

 

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