CIE Seminar Series 2016 – Ecological impacts of gray wolf recolonization in managed landscapes of the western USA

Aaron WirsingSPEAKER: Assoc Prof Aaron Wirsing, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, College of the Environment, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

DATE: Friday, 15th April 2016
LOCATION: Melbourne Campus at Burwood HD3.008
TIME: 1:30pm
Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds, Room ka4.207 (Green room) and Warrnambool Campus, Room J2.22

ABSTRACT: Many top predators are undergoing global declines, raising concern about the ecosystem services that may be lost in the wake of their disappearance. Yet, the ecological impacts of many large predators are poorly understood, hindering reliable prediction of the consequences of changes to their abundance. In the northwestern USA, the return of gray wolves (Canis lupus) after an 80-year absence has set the stage for natural experiments exploring ecosystem changes triggered by the presence of these pack hunting canids.

Capitalizing on this rare opportunity by contrasting sites with and without wolves in eastern Washington state, we found that the presence of wolves had little effect on overall rates of predation suffered by two ungulate prey species – mule (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed (O. virginianus) deer – but was associated with altered patterns of anti-predator vigilance.

By implication, wolves in the managed landscapes of eastern Washington may have little impact on prey demography via consumptive pathways but could affect prey fitness and plant communities non-consumptively by eliciting changes to spatiotemporal patterns of herbivory.

BIO: Dr. Wirsing is originally from Columbia, South Carolina (USA) and completed a BA in Biology at Bowdoin College (Maine) in 1996. He then earned a Master of Science degree in Wildlife Resources in 2001 from the University of Idaho, where his research explored the impacts of predation on the population dynamics of snowshoe hares at the species’ southern range edge in the Bitterroot Mountains.

In 2005, working with Lawrence Dill at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC, Canada), he completed a dissertation focused on management of tiger shark predation risk by dugongs in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

From 2006-2008, Dr. Wirsing served as a post-doctoral research associate in the Heithaus Lab at Florida International University (Miami), where his studies continued to focus on the ecosystem consequences of dugong anti-predator behavior as well as bull shark behavior in the Florida Coastal Everglades.

In 2008, Dr. Wirsing joined the Wildlife Science Group in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he is currently an associate professor.

His research program continues to address predator-prey interactions, with special reference to the ecological impacts of predators that are transmitted non-consumptively.

Appointments with guest speaker may be made via Euan Ritchie.

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