I am a local wildlife biologist working with Cooper Ecological Monitoring, Inc. I am a native Angeleno who grew up just outside of Griffith Park. After leaving LA to pursue a master's degree in ecology at UC Davis, I have returned back home to pursue biological research locally. I am very passionate about carnivores, urban wildlife, and environmental outreach to the urban community, especially inner city youth. Laurel has invited me to blog about my work on the Griffith Park corridor study (see 'Projects'), as well as a jaguar study that will eventually be taking place in Nicaragua.
To introduce my work, I've identified a few key themes that will likely be integral to future blog posts. Here they are:
Is Griffith Park an Island? Along with Dan Cooper, M.S. (Cooper Ecological Monitoring, Inc.) and Dr. Erin Boydston (USGS), we are using camera traps (motion/heat triggered cameras) to study whether urban carnivores and deer can enter and exit Griffith Park via corridors (e.g. Mulholland bridge) or if the park is an island surrounded by a sea of urban development. Griffith Park is the largest urban park in the country and an oasis for urban wildlife. However, larger mammals like mule deer and territorial carnivores need more space than what Griffith Park can provide to sustain healthy populations. They need more space to find enough food, mates, and for young to be able to disperse and find territory of their own. Although Griffith Park is technically the eastern end of the Santa Monica mountain range, it is surrounded by major physical barriers such as the 5, 134, and 101 freeways. Therefore, it may be totally isolated from the rest of the Santa Monica range to the west and Verdugos/San Gabriels to the north.
Using Camera Traps to Measure Wildlife Movement and Activity: With permission from local land agencies and Cal-Trans, we have placed cameras at the few potential wildlife corridors (e.g. bridges) that cross over or beneath these major freeways. Some cameras are placed in open space at the edges of these crossing points to measure wildlife presence and activity near the edges of the corridors. The remainder of the cameras are located at bridges and tunnels to see if these are indeed functional corridors for wildlife.
Wildlife Approaching the Edge: So far we are capturing a great deal of wildlife activity on each side of the freeways, especially on the east side. However, there has not been any proof of animals using the corridors, so stay tuned!
Why Use Camera Traps?: Camera trap pictures are date and time stamped concrete evidence of wildlife presence and can even be used to measure wildlife abundance in a specific geographic location. These useful wildlife tools are relatively cheap and require little human effort to monitor as they silently monitor elusive species. These cameras are so non-invasive that we can occasionally get a glimpse of rarely seen or documented wildlife behavior (e.g., predation, communication). Stay tuned for my next blog entries where I will share some fascinating carnivore behavior caught on camera!