Luca Kuziel ’21, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
I worked in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park on a study of how large herbivores — which were accustomed to a relatively predator-free environment — would respond to the reintroduction of predators such as leopards. This is important for park management as predator reintroduction is a crucial step for recovering ecosystems. It also is interesting from a theoretical standpoint. To conduct the research, we studied the feeding and watching behavior of antelope to measure how safe they seemed to feel. We also wanted to understand their diets, which can shed light on resource use within the ecosystem, as well as on how the animals feed when they feel safe or threatened. To that end, we collected dung samples from which plant DNA can be extracted to determine antelope diet and health. I learned a huge amount about fieldwork and methods in ecology, such as how to build a small experiment. It was incredible to be involved in every step. Working in the field in a stunning and healthy park reaffirmed my love of nature and has set me on a path to a career in conservation biology and restoration ecology.