Eve Cooke ’22
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Impact of Grazing Regimes on Rangeland Quality and Wildlife and Livestock Use
I studied the effects of cattle grazing in Kenya on the ranging patterns of the endangered Grévy’s zebra. At the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya, wild herbivores including Grévy’s zebras graze in grasslands alongside cattle. We hypothesized that if cattle stimulate rangeland, Grévy’s zebras would move toward cattle-grazing areas, and if cattle damaged the rangeland, Grévy’s zebras would avoid those areas. I filtered and submitted photographs and GPS locations of Grévy’s zebras taken by Mpala field researchers to Wildbook, an artificial intelligence software that identifies animals by their distinctive markings. The unique pattern of a zebra’s stripes functions like a “barcode” for identifying individuals. Working with postdoctoral fellow Andrew Gersick, I helped troubleshoot the software, create a user’s manual for inputting field data, and I compiled spreadsheet templates to assist with data entry. By the end of my internship, I identified 140 unique Grévy’s zebras. Time constraints prevented us from drawing a definitive conclusion on the interaction between cattle and Grévy’s zebras, but this internship confirmed my desire to study the interaction between humans, livestock and wildlife in order to sustain ecosystems.
Biodiversity and Conservation
Rubenstein Group, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University; Mpala Research Centre
Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Andrew Gersick, Associate Research Scholar, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology