What is a population?
A population is a group of a single species that interacts with each other. Monitoring changes in density, age-structure, sex-structure, or distribution of a population is one of the most important tools we have for effective conservation. However, we are almost never able to count all animals in the field so bias and necessary use of indexes routinely diminish our ability to gain reliable estimates.
To study alligator population changes across Mississippi, I used standardized long-term survey data, historical counts, and experimental trials using spotlight survey methods. This work provided a tool to develop management strategies and help set state harvest limits. I have also used a state-of-the-art analytical tool called occupancy modeling, which does more than estimate animal numbers, but also gives an idea of how good we are at detecting them. This work investigated the population status, distribution, and habitat use of vulnerable, threatened, and endangered freshwater mussels in the Flynt River of Georgia and has been instrumental in managing these important animals. I am also maintaining a long-term monitoring project within the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research program studying juvenile bull sharks. With this work, we hope to understand the abiotic and biotic drivers of population sizes and age-structures within this nursery habitat. I also integrate movement technologies, stable isotopes, and pollution work with fishing efforts to track changes in the population over time.