Disentangling the effects of species interactions and human disturbance on community composition in urban areas

Aimara Planillo

Urban areas present new challenges to wildlife communities. Special conditions created by human disturbance and novel stressors, such as noise or light, affect both species response to urban environment and species interactions. In order to better understand species and communities’ response to urban environment and to predict (multi)species distributions, I work with hierarchical multi-response models to study community composition and analyse how species interactions are modified by anthropogenic disturbance in an urbanization gradient. I do this with data from invertebrates, birds and mammals, including competition/facilitation relationships, as well as predator-prey interactions.

African wild dogs in the Ruaha ecosystem, Tanzania: demography, ecology, healths and human wildlife conflict

Currently, knowledge of the African wild dog population in the vast Ruaha ecosystem in Tanzania is limited. The aim of this project is to provide relevant knowledge for evidenced based conservation of the important population of this endangered species in Ruaha National Park. A citizen science approach is used to monitor wild dog demography which involves obtaining photographs of dispersing groups and packs of wild dogs encountered by tourists and National Park staff. These records currently span a period from 2010 to 2019 and are used to track the fate of individuals and packs over time. Road transects are used to assess the abundance of ungulate prey to monitor seasonal change, particularly in relation to the loss of surface water from the Great Ruaha River during the dry-season. Scats of domestic dogs are collected to determine diet, virus and gastrointestinal parasite infections. Human-wildlife conflict is studied in areas surrounding Ruaha National Park to gain insights on the contribution of wild dogs to livestock losses, and the contribution of wire snares and other human activities to mortality of wild dogs outside the National Park. Talks on African wild dogs are presented to students in local schools and in villages to raise awareness of this endangered species.