I graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Management. In May of 2014 I studied wildlife in the Chiquibul Rainforest in Belize, including jaguars, tapirs, bats, tree frogs, snakes, macaws, and rodents. I worked in the rainforest, pine savanna, and cave ecosystems.
My first post-graduation wildlife internship was in Naples, Florida in 2105 studying sea turtles. I patrolled Keewaydin Island at night for nesting mothers. Turtles were PIT and flipper tagged, carapace measurements were taken, and eventually nests were caged to prevent depredation by raccoons. The summer was particularly exciting because we broke the previous record for the highest number of loggerhead nests, green turtle nests, and the county’s first ever recorded leatherback sea turtle nest!
The next year I worked with sea turtles again in Port St. Joe, again marking and protecting nests.
In September of 2017 I began the raccoon monitoring project in Tree Tops Park in Broward County, Florida. This is a new study aimed at understanding raccoon population dynamics in South Florida and how urbanization affects them. So far no studies like this on raccoons have been done in this area. We will be using PIT Tags and GPS collars to track individual raccoons and home ranges. Most previous work tracking raccoons has been done via radio telemetry. From each raccoon we will collect genetic and parasite samples.
We will compare our results to past studies to see how raccoon ranges vary North to South. We expect ranges to be smaller in the South, correlating to a smaller body size. Other factors will influence this as well, including amount of urbanization in habitats, sex, and season.
Understanding raccoons ranges and habitat use is important for many reasons. Raccoons carry many diseases of significance to humans, most notoriously rabies. Knowing where raccoons are most likely to be makes it more efficient to disperse vaccinations and mitigate other health concerns. Raccoons are also a major predator of nesting birds and turtles. Understanding raccoon ranges will help to manage populations around important nesting sites.
The Miami metropolitan area is one of the most populous areas in the United States and it borders one of the largest natural areas in the United States, Everglades National Park. This creates a unique setting where a very high human population density neighbors an enormous natural area. We also aim to eventually see how populations in the Everglades compare to populations in the city.