Megan Demmel ’19
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
The Spatial Ecology of African Savana Herbivores in the Absence of Predation
I helped on a study of predator-prey interactions at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. We investigated the “landscape of fear” theory, which suggests that predators can affect the movement of prey even without direct interactions. I helped set up speakers to play predator sounds in different locations throughout the park, and arranged camera traps nearby to record animals’ reactions. I analyzed and sorted many of the resulting videos and identified the species in each one. I also helped set up experiments to determine how herbivore movement might affect vegetation. I gained skills valuable to fieldwork, such as using GPS and animal identification. I left with a better understanding of the range of questions one can explore in ecology, of the questions that have yet to be answered, and of the importance of community engagement in conservation. Having spent so much time in such a unique and exciting ecosystem, I gained a keen sense of the importance of protecting these areas, and I hope to continue pursuing research on the African savanna during my time at Princeton.
* This internship is connected to the PEI Development Grand Challenges project, “Ecosystem Spatial Pattern and Development Opportunities in African Rangelands.”
Biodiversity and Conservation
Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory, Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique
Corina Tarnita, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology