What research questions currently preoccupy you?
My current fieldwork is focused on the winter ecology of western burrowing owls in Santa Clara County, especially the relationship of the wintering birds to the local breeding population. This research is very exciting and it’s fun too, as I get to work with so many people I like, including two burrowing owl experts who are former students (Phil Higgins and Debra Chromczak). I’m also writing three papers for publication with recent graduate students—on burrowing owls, mollusks and ducks—so there are a number research questions associated with those papers that demand my attention.
What personal factors contributed to your research?
I am deeply concerned about the global loss of biodiversity, the greatest decline since the dinosaurs went extinct. Humans are the cause of this tremendous loss of species and I feel a compelling obligation to do what I can to help ameliorate this global disaster. Through my teaching, research and community efforts, I work toward this end.
What has been most challenging in your research?
Despite a growing awareness that our society must embrace sustainability, very often the sustainability goals of governments completely exclude the preservation of biodiversity. We are only one species on this planet and achieving sustainability means including all species. Our highly anthropocentric mindset is a huge challenge.
How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?
SJSU has been a fantastic place to do research! I have been supported every step of the way—with grants, colleague support for my work and student involvement. I’ve had the unique opportunity to work at a local level on research that assists wildlife agencies, non-profit groups and local municipalities. SJSU has supported this community-focused work.
A hidden (research) talent:
Hard to say. Perhaps, my ability to help people negotiate to solutions or my instincts to always have a “Plan B”.
One book that changed your life (or research) and why:
I loved the book Tracks in which a young woman (Robyn Davidson) crossed Australia with her dog and four camels. I went to Australia around that time to do field work with a professor on satin bowerbirds and, like Robyn, my Australian experience changed my life.
A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:
I follow The Wildlife Society newsletters and journals.
Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:
Do the research that calls to you! Continue to learn and progress in your field by bringing in collaborators, if that works in your field, and regularly attending conferences. I have found conferences move my thinking along incrementally—but every once in a while there’s a conference that’s a shot of adrenaline and leads to a big payoff!