Research beyond sea turtle ecology
Although I focus the vast majority of my time on sea turtles, I maintain collaborations that allow me to branch into questions concerning other systems and animal groups. The unifying goal for all of this work is to build an understanding of how species are responding in a changing world.
Endangered mammals —
In the Florida Keys, several endemic mammals face pressures from anthropogenic and environmental change. Dr. Michael Cove conducts research in this system to aid the conservation of endangered small mammals, focusing on the Key Largo Woodrat, Key Largo Cotton Mouse, Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit, and Florida Key deer. To date, we have collaborated to publish five papers from our work in the Keys (see Mike’s Google Scholar profile for additional publications). One article is a field note on the range of a familiar reptile, a second article in Restoration Ecology evaluates Key Largo Woodrat habitat restoration, a third article documents an interesting mammal interaction, a fourth article is a short “EcoPic” in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment that poses questions about woodrat “stick stacking” behavior, and a final article evaluates the impacts of urbanization on key deer behavior (published in Landscape and Urban Planning).
Opportunistic lizards —
The Caribbean is host to an impressive example of adaptive radiation. Lizards in the genus Anolis inhabit islands throughout the region and have adapted to their local environments, resulting various cases of phenotypic divergence (i.e., developing different traits in different environments) and speciation.
There are two anole species in Antigua: Watts’ anole and Leach’s anole. During nightly sea turtle nesting surveys, we were surprised to observe these diurnal (active during the day) anole species making the most of nighttime foraging opportunities. We conducted a study of their nocturnal behaviors and published results in an article in Herpetological Conservation and Biology. This work was a collaboration with Dr. Chris Thawley, Alex Fireman, Dr. Sean Giery, and Dr. James Stroud. James and I also published a separate short note documenting nocturnal behavior in the Watts’ anole for the first time.
Conservation genetics —
The gene is in many ways the fundamental unit of ecology. This is especially true for sea turtle ecology, where DNA preserves demographic patterns that would otherwise be unobservable and unknown because of the highly migratory and cryptic nature of sea turtle life histories. In recognition of this reality, I have focused significant energy on conservation genetics. The best example of this came in 2020, when I coauthored a paper in Oecologia titled “Gridlock and beltways: the genetic context of urban invasions.” The paper was spearheaded by first author Dr. Emily Reed, a landscape genomicist, with two other coauthors: Dr. Megan Serr and Dr. Martha Burford Reiskind. Part of Figure 1 from our review is shown here, but I encourage you to read it for yourself!