PhD Student. Wilmers Lab. Environmental Studies Department. University of California, Santa Cruz.
I study the interaction between pumas, deer, and oaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In a diverse landscape, predator and prey behavior is governed by tradeoffs between the cost (caloric loss or death) and benefits (forage quality or safety) of foraging in different areas. Behavioral decisions of predators and prey interact with landscape features in a dynamic game to create spatial heterogeneity in hunting grounds and prey refugia. Behavioral choices influenced by predation risk limit access to resources, which influences prey growth, maturation rates, survivorship, fecundity, population density, and behavior. This can lead to preferential utilization of relatively safe microhabitats despite potentially energetically suboptimal forage, however, the extant of these interactions has been subject to much debate. My study investigates predation risk across a variety of habitat types and the potential resulting cascading affects.