Students

Nick Fowler

Nick is currently a Ph.D. student working on the Michigan Predator Prey Project. He received his B.S. from the University of Missouri writing his undergraduate thesis on elevational space use of black bears in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks while employed by the National Park Service. He also served as a research assistant in the Amphibian Acoustic Communication Lab, held technician positions working with a variety of taxa, and studied abroad at the University of Pretoria Centre for Wildlife Management in South Africa. Nick completed his M.S. in 2014 at Mississippi State in the Carnivore Ecology Lab investigating the relaxation of selective pressures in ursid den behavior while performing his field work on the Mississippi Black Bear Project. He then spent 1.5 years as a Research Associate on the Michigan Predator Prey Project. Nick's research interests include carnivore ecology, predator-prey interactions, large mammal conservation, and human/wildlife conflict. In his spare time, Nick enjoys hunting, backpacking, and mountain biking.


Mariela Gantchoff

Mariela completed her M.S. degree conducting research on invasive mammal and carnivore distributions in relation to human activity in Nahuel Huapi National Park, Patagonia. Mariela is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she received her Licenciate Degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Buenos Aires in May 2011. In addition to participating in several ecology projects, Mariela has worked in the Animal Ecology and Behaviour Laboratory, University of Buenos Aires, where she studied avian ecology and interspecific brood parasitism, the topic of her Licenciate thesis. Her interests include animal ecology, conservation, behaviour and evolution, especially regarding carnivore mammals. Mariela is currently a Ph.D. student conducting research on black bears in Mississippi. In her free time Mariela likes reading, music, and being outdoors enjoying nature.


Jacob Hill

Jacob is a Ph.D. student in the lab studying how carrion introduced into the environment via vehicle collisions affects the structure of scavenging communities. Prior to joining the lab, he received an M.S. in Biology from Purdue University where he studied diving behavior and population structure of hawksbill sea turtles nesting in the US Virgin Islands. He also has a B.A. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include understanding how human activities alter ecosystem structure, with a particular interest in endangered species conservation.

Todd Kautz

Todd is a M.S. student working on the Michigan Predator Prey Project, where his research focuses on white-tailed deer survival and recruitment relative to winter weather, habitat, and predators. Todd grew up on a dairy farm in New York, and received his B.T. in Wildlife Management from SUNY Cobleskill in 2012. Prior to joining the lab, he worked as a technician conducting wetland mapping in New York, bobwhite research in Kentucky, and amphibian research in Wyoming. In his free time, Todd enjoys fly fishing, hunting, woodworking, and music.


Tyler R. Petroelje

Tyler is currently a Ph.D. student studying aspects of carnivore ecology as part of the Michigan Predator Prey Project. Tyler completed his M.S. degree at the lab addressing aspects of coyote population ecology and their consumption of white-tailed deer. Tyler graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2010 with a B.S. degree in Ecology. Before this he worked as a wildlife technician for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan capturing and monitoring black bears.


Hari Prasad Sharma

Hari is a PhD student in the Biodiversity Research Center, Taiwan International Graduate Program, with Jerry Belant serving as advisor. Hari completed his M.S. degree in Zoology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, studying under the direction of Jon Swenson and Jerry Belant. His M.S. research focused on red panda diet and the effects of livestock on red panda habitat use. Hari also graduated with a Master's of Science in Zoology with specialization in Ecology from Tribhuvan University, Nepal, in July 2000. Hari enjoys traveling and photography.


Stephanie Simek

Stephanie is a Ph.D. candidate completing her dissertation on the natural recolonization of black bear in Mississippi. Stephanie joined the department in January 2009. She earned a B.S. in Wildlife Science at Virginia Tech and a M.S. in Environmental Science and Forest Biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She has spent about 20 years working on American black bear in research and management programs. Stephanie has worked with both captive and free-ranging bears in Virginia, New York, Washington and Florida. Before joining the lab, she was the Black Bear Program Coordinator for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. While completing her dissertation, Stephanie is currently employed as the human-wildlife conflicts program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Nathan J. Svoboda

Nate is a Ph.D. candidate whose doctoral research focuses on resource selection by carnivores relative to white-tailed deer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Nate received his M.S. degree in Conservation Biology from Central Michigan University in 2006. His master's research focused on habitat use, home-range size and spatial distribution of bobcats in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. Nate received his B.S. degree in biology from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1999. His research interests include multi-scale resource selection by carnivores, habitat and population modeling and the implementation of GIS to aid in wildlife research. When possible, Nate spends his free time hiking, backcountry skiing, mountain biking and traveling. While completing his dissertation, Nate is currently employed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as the wildlife biologist for Kodiak Island.


Seth Wong

Seth is a M.S. student in the lab working on a wildlife monitoring project in Sabah, Malaysia, with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, and the Sabah Forestry Department. Seth has volunteered and worked on small carnivore projects in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He has also worked as an animal keeper at the San Francisco Zoo where he spent time interacting with visitors and provided care and enrichment for primates and birds. Seth graduated with a B.S. in Wildlife and Fish Conservation Biology from the University of California Davis (UCD), where he also gained experience preparing mammal study skins while working at the UCD Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology. His main interests are in the ecology and conservation of small carnivores, but he also enjoys both watching and playing soccer.


Former Students

Abdulaziz Alatawi

Abdulaziz is a M.S. student conducting an inventory of terrestrial vertebrates and estimating factors that affect their occurrence in Aldesa Valley, Tabuk Region. Abdulaziz is from Tabuk City, Saudi Arabia. In 2011, Abdulaziz earned his bachelor's degree in Biological Science from the University of Tabuk. Abdulaziz then worked in the Biology Department at the University of Tabuk during summer 2012, teaching a course in environmental pollution and assisting with other classes. Abdulaziz's biggest dream is to study Arabian wolves in Tabuk Region. His interests include animal conservation, terrestrial vertebrates, and carnivores. In his free time, Abdulaziz likes soccer, swimming, working outdoors, and taking long hikes in remote areas.


Chris Ayers

Chris completed his Ph.D. which focused on modeling the relationships between resource selection and fitness indices in a variety of mammals. He earned his B.S. in wildlife science from Virginia Tech in 2003 and a master's in education from Virginia Tech in 2004 before teaching middle school science in Hawaii and Maryland. Chris then attended North Carolina State University for a master's degree in wildlife science focused on resident Canada geese. His research interests include carnivore ecology and human/wildlife conflict. Chris is currently an instructor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture. Chris enjoys traveling, sports, and spending time in the woods.


Kristin Biondi

Kristin's M.S. research focused on reducing risks to aviation by managing wildlife habitat within and surrounding airports. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kristin graduated with a B.S in Biology from Susquehanna University in May 2009. She previously worked as an intern at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi. Kristin is currently in Tupelo, MS, exploring opportunities in environmental education and interpretation. In her spare time Kristin likes to fish, lounge, and play in the snow.


Brent Bowman

Brent received his B.S. in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture from Mississippi State University in May 2014. Brent worked as an intern with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks in 2012, where he focused on habitat management and wildlife-damage management. Brent also worked as an intern for USDA Wildlife Services where he focused on wildlife-damage management. He worked on the MS Black Bear Project during 2013-2014 as a research technician. Brent's interests in wildlife ecology include habitat management, large mammal conservation, and human-wildlife conflicts. In his free time, Brent enjoys hunting, fishing, and sports.


Jared Duquette

Jared completed his Ph.D. which focused on the spatial ecology, resource selection, reproduction, and survival of adult and fawn white-tailed deer relative to weather, habitat, predators, and nutritional condition. This research is a portion of an overall study assessing the predator-prey dynamics of white-tailed deer and wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He earned his B.S. at Central Michigan University in 2004 and then worked for the National Wildlife Research Center on several studies across the U.S. until 2005. In 2008 he received his M.S. from The Ohio State University assessing American badger ecology in Ohio. Jared has interests in a wide variety of vertebrate research and is dedicated to challenging research that advances our understanding of nature. Jared is currently employed as a research ecologist with the Institute for Wildlife Studies in Arcata, California. When not working, Jared enjoys running, song writing, boating, fur trapping, and hunting with friends and his black lab.


José González-Maya

José completed his Ph.D. at the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Laboratory, Ecology Institute, National Autonomous University of Mexico with Jerry Belant as advisor. He earned his B.S. in Biology with emphasis in ecology and sustainable development from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica in 2004 and a Master's in Tropical forests and biodiversity management and conservation from the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre-CATIE, Costa Rica. José is director for ProCAT Colombia and deputy director for ProCAT International, is heavily involved with the IUCN Small Carnivore Specialist group and IUCN Crocodile specialist group, and has worked for 10 years in tropical ecology and conservation in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Mexico, and Chile. His doctorate research was related to mammal assemblages across multiple scales including functional ecology, extinction risk and conservation planning. His interests include carnivore and mammal ecology and conservation, conservation biology and ecology and protected areas management. José enjoys traveling, photography, movies and music and enjoys spending time in isolated locations and doing field work. José is continuing his work as Director of ProCat Colombia/International where he is involved in numerous conservation projects.


Diana Lafferty

Diana completed her Ph.D. in summer 2015 where she integrated stable isotope, genetic, and physiological data to examine the ecological and evolutionary causes and consequences of intrapopulation trophic niche variation in American black bears and brown bears. Diana earned her M.S. degree in Ecology and Conservation Biology at Florida Institute of Technology where she studied paleoecology under the supervision of Dr. Mark Bush. Diana also has a graduate certificate in Conservation Biology from the University of Central Florida and received her B.S. degree in Zoology with a minor in Chemistry from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Diana is primarily interested in the drivers of among-individual trait variation in carnivores and how that variation shapes eco-evolutionary trajectories and impacts carnivore conservation efforts. Now a post-doctoral scholar at North Carolina State University, in her free time, Diana enjoys cycling, playing soccer, traveling and hiking with her husband and their dog.


Nathan Libal

Nate received his M.S. degree from Mississippi State in December 2011. His master's research focused on the influence of thermoregulation, risk, and den stability on grizzly bear den-site selection in southwestern Yukon and Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. He received his B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of British Columbia in 2007. Nate is currently a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conducting research and monitoring of their wolf population. In his spare time, Nate enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting, and travelling.


Deb Martell

Deb was a Research Associate for the Carnivore Ecology Laboratory working on the second phase of the Michigan Predator Prey Project. Originally from western Canada, she earned her Bachelor's degree in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of British Columbia in 2008. After graduation she worked in Alberta on a project studying cougar predation and in Kansas studying prairie chicken response to wind farm development. She also worked for a small non-profit organization in British Columbia that aims to protect places of ecological and cultural significance. Deb's research in Michigan focused on estimating the populations of bobcats, wolves, coyotes, and black bears. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, sports, being outside, and spending time with her dogs.


Milena Stillfried

Milena was a M.S. student with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Berlin and Free University Berlin, Germany and joined the Carnivore Ecology Laboratory for her master's project in 2011. Her research focused on black bear movement behavior related to hunting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During her studies she also helped in preparing the Borneo Carnivore conservation symposium and worked with several wildlife institutions. Milena is currently pursuing her Ph.D. degree through the IZW, studying urban feral hog ecology in Berlin. Milena enjoys travelling, sports and outdoor activities.


Savanna Summers

Savanna was an undergraduate student working in the Carnivore Ecology Lab through the MSU Undergraduate Research Scholar Program. Her research focused on resource selection in bobcats in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with emphasis on understanding spatial and temporal variation of occupancy relative to road and stream networks and prey density. In the summer of 2012, Savanna worked as an intern at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge monitoring endangered Loggerhead sea turtle populations. Her research interests include large mammal behavioral ecology and conservation. Outside of school, Savanna especially enjoys biking, intramural sports and wildlife photography.


Brittany Waller

Brittany completed her M.S. research in 2012 which focused on den-site selection by American black bears in Mississippi. Brittany earned her B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology from Clemson University in May 2009. After receiving her degree, she moved back to South Carolina and currently works as a wildlife biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.


Clay Wilton

Clay Wilton completed his M.S. degree studying population dynamics, resource selection, and movements of black bears in Missouri. He completed his bachelor's degree at Central Michigan University (2008) in Natural Resources. Prior to starting his Master's, Clay studied freshwater ecology in Gombe Streams National Park, Tanzania, worked as a field technician for the Predator-Prey Research Project in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and studied gelada behavior in the Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia for the University of Michigan. Clay was a research associate working on the African lion population study before taking a position as conservation ecologist with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. In his free time, Clay enjoys wildlife photography, fly fishing, rock climbing, and playing with his dogs.