I’m an associate professor in Zoology on a tiny little rural campus in Qwaqwa, South Africa. I might be the only cognitive ecologist in South Africa – few African researchers appear to be curious about the workings of animal minds. Up till now, I’ve done research on a variety of species. For my PhD, I studied yellow mongoose communication and cognition in the Kalahari Desert (they’re the sexiest mongoose species!), and as postdoc I looked at gelada monkeys in the Ethiopian highlands. Primates are clever, but I’m quite drawn to secretive creatures like carnivores. I’ve chased around after bat-eared foxes, trying to unravel the drivers of the extensive paternal care you can see in this species, and now I’m quite caught up in events in my own backyard. I work up in the mountains near Lesotho, and this absolutely stunning location is driving my current research. My research group is looking at rodents’ and small carnivores’ responses to mountain living: we are a high-altitude grassland, experiencing regular fires, snow in winter, and of course the unique challenges of spatial navigation! On top of this, humans are impacting the ecosystem. So, I have my work cut out for me.
To my shock, I’m becoming a mid-career scientist, and I’m not quite ready for it. I probably have a lot of wisdom (from hindsight!) about starting a new research group on a shoestring… In the meantime, I have to say that few of my peers appear to be interested in #SciComm, and I hope that my Biotweeps week will swing a bit more attention in the direction of research done in Africa, by locals. If you want to see some of my publications, I maintain a ResearchGate profile here and I’m also on Google Scholar.
Dr. Nicholas Pilfold is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute of Conservation Research for San Diego Zoo Global. Nicholas is a large carnivore biologist focused mainly on bear species, but his research also extends to large cats.
Nicholas leads and collaborates on projects for four large carnivore species: polar bears, African leopards, Andean bears, and giant pandas. Nicholas’ research is focused on several themes within spatial and population ecology. His work includes assessment of diet and foraging patterns, reproductive and mating behavior, human-carnivore conflict resolution, as well as understanding the role a changing climate has on large carnivore persistence. Nicholas is interested in identifying broad ecological patterns useful to the conservation of all large carnivores.
Nicholas earned his bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of British Columbia and his doctorate in Ecology at the University of Alberta. His interest in large carnivore research was initially spurred while volunteering on small wildlife reserves in South Africa. Prior to joining San Diego Zoo Global, Nicholas worked with researchers at the University of Alberta and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
I starting my PhD at Pennsylvania State University in Fall 2016, to work on the one species I swore I would never work on: white-tailed deer. Luckily, the project is focused on figuring out how carnivore presence on the landscape influences their mortality, so the ‘deerness’ is diluted.
My true interests lie in tropical rainforests and studying the population ecology and interspecific interactions of understudied species that can be camera-trapped. My Master’s research was a data hotdog, taken from the dregs of a PhD student’s project in Madagascar, and focused on lemurs, small mammals, ground-dwelling birds, and the largest native carnivore in Madagascar: the fosa. Madagascar remains close to my heart, and I hope to go back one day to put GPS collars on fosa to study their movements across the landscape (and to touch one in the wild).
Above all, I love being anatiala or inside the forest. Field work was and remains my draw to wildlife conservation.
If you want more information about what I do and what I’ve done, check out my website: anatiala.com
If you want to follow my constant tweeting and retweeting, follow me @am_anatiala