Wildlife Space-Use Ecology research group

We acknowledge that many of us live and study on the traditional lands of the Seuhubeogoi and Painkwitikka Shoshone bands, not far from where hundreds of Seuhubeogoi Shoshone men, women and children were murdered by the United States Army in what is now known as the Bear River Massacre (January 29, 1863).


Studying the ecological causes and consequences of animals movement, habitat and resource selection, and predator-prey interactions.

Tal Avgar

Assistant Professor of Movement Ecology, Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center, Utah State University

Pronouns: he/him/his

I am a movement ecologist. My research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary causes and consequences of animal movement behaviour.

Animal movement has fascinated humankind since the dawn of history, but only recently have we begun to truly elucidate the different drivers that underlie movement phenomena such as migration, natal dispersal, home ranging, and nomadism. Learn more


Danielle Berger

Ph.D. Student

Pronouns: she/her/hers

I am currently a master’s student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where my research focus is the historical ecology of prairie grouse in the Nebraska Sandhills. I use old data to explore the relationship between greater prairie-chicken and sharp-tailed grouse abundance and distribution with an emphasis on how environmental drivers may shape population trends in the context of space and time.

I will be pursing my PhD at Utah State University studying Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep with the goal of constructing a spatially-explicit population viability analysis to inform the recovery and management of this endangered species. Learn more


Sean Boyle

Postdoctoral Fellow (joint supervision with Eric Vander Wal & Garrett Street)

Pronouns: he/him/his

I am interested in the ways society and wildlife interact with one another. I started working with the lab in June 2019, after completing my PhD at Laurentian University with Dr. Jacqueline Litzgus and Dr. David Lesbarrères where I studied the impact of roads on wildlife with a focus on improving and understanding the effectiveness of mitigation strategies.

I am now investigating large mammal spatial ecology and behaviour using a combination of trail cameras, GPS telemetry data, and aboriginal traditional knowledge with a specific interest in moose, a species which has experienced substantial declines and whose population stability is important to many indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Learn more


Courtney Check

MS Student

Pronouns: she/her/hers

I am a master’s student in Dr. Tal Avgar’s lab at Utah State University. I will be studying large ungulate movement at both the individual and population level in central Utah.

I am originally from Virginia, and completed a BS in Biology at the College of William and Mary. During my undergraduate years, I did an honors thesis on the microhabitat selection and annual movement of American and Fowler’s toads, and contributed to a study examining how threats to endangered species have changed over time. Learn more


Ronan Hart

MS Student

Pronouns: he/him/his

I will be a master’s student at Utah State University, supervised by Dr. Tal Avgar. My research will focus on identifying and studying how anthropogenic barriers such as fences and roads affect the movement patterns of pronghorn and mule deer across Utah with the goal of making more informed management of these species. Learn more


Jennifer Hogg

MS Student

Pronouns: she/her/hers

My research is primarily looking into the interdisciplinary applications of using mathematical modelling in an ecological setting. Currently I am based out of Memorial University, Newfoundland, however I spent the summer of 2019 working closely with Dr. Tal Avgar and colleagues in Utah State University. During this time, I used ideal gas laws to prove the Random Encounter and Staying Time (REST) model, a new innovative approach to measure large-mammal density using camera-trap data. Learn more


John Huang

PhD Student

Pronouns: he/him/his

I am a PhD student, advised by Tal Avgar, studying mule deer with the goal of providing a comprehensive ecological understanding of mule deer migration in Utah by quantifying individual migratory behavior across multiple populations and environmental conditions. I am particularly interested in animal behavior and population dynamics with relation to wildlife conservation and management. Learn more


Randall McBride

MS Student

Pronouns: he/him/his

I am a master’s student focusing on the spatial interactions between humans and elk.

While pursuing my master’s I work full-time for the Utah Division of Natural Resources as the Private Lands Biologist. My interests include animal behavior, species interactions, and how humans influence that behavior. I have worked with a variety of species including sage grouse, turkeys, elk, mule deer, bobcats, cougars, moose, and bears. Learn more


Brian Smith

Ph.D. Student

Pronouns: he/him/his

I am a PhD student, co-advised by Tal and Dan MacNulty, studying the space-use ecology of northern Yellowstone elk and the feedbacks between space-use and demography.

I am particularly interested in how density-dependent habitat selection interacts with predation risk and how animals balance this tradeoff between “many mouths to feed” and “safety in numbers”. My goal is to find insights from individual behavior that scale up to population- and community-level patterns. Learn more

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Veronica Winter

MS Student

Pronouns: she/her/hers

I am a master’s student under the advisement of Dr. Avgar focusing on the space-use ecology of Pronghorn in Utah. Specifically, I am going to be investigating their migratory behavior, critical habitat use, and impediments to their movement. Learn more

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Lab Alumni