Landscape Maps to Support Wildlife Research
Sustaining healthy herbivore populations requires us to understand their habitat and food resources. For example: Where are critical habitat requirements, including food, cover, and nesting sites, located on the landscape? How does that affect animal movement and density? How many individuals can the landscape support?
Like many ecologists, we are fascinated by these questions. We are even more passionate about the approach that is used to answer them. Unfortunately, existing products lack the spatial extent and resolution to represent the landscape as animals see it.
That’s why we’ve created continuous foliar cover maps and accompanying methods including sampling designs, field protocols, and repeatable code. We use this mapping framework to provide biologists and managers with a better understanding of the species and systems they care about.
1) Calving habitat selection of moose in Bristol Bay
Collaborators: Kassidy Colson and Jeff Stetz, ADF&G; Andy Aderman, USFWS
Research Objectives: Quantify and map calving season habitat for maternal and non-maternal moose in the Bristol Bay region.
Methods: We developed path selection functions for maternal and non-maternal groups during a defined calving season using foliar cover maps and topographic covariates.
Results: We found that maternal and non-maternal females select for a relatively small proportion, roughly 25%, of the available landscape in Bristol Bay. Preferred habitat for both groups depended strongly on the abundance of willow (Salix) shrubs. While the preferred habitat of maternal females overlapped most of the preferred habitat of non-maternal females, maternal females exhibited more diverse selection preferences. However, on the individual level, only some maternal females differed in their habitat selection from the predicted selection of non-maternal females. We interpreted the inconsistent individual differences to show that maternal tradeoffs in habitat selection are not universal behaviors among maternal moose.
Click the title slide image below to watch a talk presented by Amanda on December 1st, 2021, on our work quantifying calving habitat selection for maternal and non-maternal females in Bristol Bay.
2) Mapping forage biomass for moose in the Alphabet Hills
Collaborators: Kristin Denryter and Don Spalinger, Wildlife Nutrition Lab, ADF&G
Research Objectives: Quantify summer food availability by species and bite size for moose in the Alphabet Hills region.
Methods: We are producing maps of edible forage biomass per species and bite size by linking field observations of bite size and available biomass to a gradient representation of vegetation community.
Results: Our map will allow us to understand how much food is available for moose and how both availability and diet diversity varies over space. Because part of the study area is in a prescribed burn, we can use our results to understand how food availability is affected by fire history and habitat management techniques.
Amanda Droghini is a movement ecologist and the lead of the Wildlife Ecology Program. She obtained her B.S. from McGill University and her M.S. from the University of Alberta. Her thesis considered the effects of snow conditions and human linear features on the movements of grey wolves. Amanda has over 7 years of experience programming and analyzing large datasets in R and geographic information systems (GIS). She joined ACCS in 2016 and enjoys building relationships with scientists across the state.
Publications & Datasets
Droghini, A., T.W. Nawrocki, P.A. Schuette, A. Aderman, and K. Colson. In prep. Spatial modeling of habitat preferences quantifies individual variation in maternal tradeoffs among moose in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Nawrocki, T.W., M.L. Carlson, A.F. Wells, M.J. Macander, E. Jamie Trammell, F.D.W. Witmer, C.A. Roland, D.K. Swanson. 2021. Continuous Foliar Cover of Plant Species and Aggregates in North American Beringia. Map User Guide and Accuracy Assessment. Version 1.0 (May 2021). Available on the ACCS Catalog.
Droghini, A., and T.W. Nawrocki. 2021. Habitat Selection of Moose during Calving Season in Southwest Alaska. Git Repository. Available: https://github.com/accs-uaa/southwest-alaska-moose
Nawrocki, T.W., M.L. Carlson, J.L.D. Osnas, E.J. Trammell, and F.D.W. Witmer. 2020. Regional mapping of species-level continuous foliar cover: beyond categorical vegetation mapping. Ecological Applications. DOI:10.1002/eap.2081.
Nawrocki, T., M. Carlson, J. Osnas, J. Trammell, and F. Witmer. 2019. Foliar cover models for five common plant species in arctic Alaska circa 2014 (30 m). Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity. DOI:10.5063/F1ZW1J8P.
Work With Us
We partner with collaborators who are passionate about wildlife and are excited to move ecological research in new directions. Email us with us to start a conversation: adroghini (at) alaska.edu.