Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tracking interactions of bears and humans

 Rae Wynn-Grant and a fellow researcher tag a tranquilized black bear.

From Emory Magazine

As a child growing up in Northern California, Emory graduate Rae Wynn-Grant was enthralled by the nature shows she watched on public television, mesmerized by the wild animals and exotic settings.

“The host was almost always an older, white, usually British man. I didn’t even know any of those people. I was an eight-year-old black girl, so I thought it must not be for me,” Wynn-Grant says.

Now a PhD candidate in ecology at Columbia University, Wynn-Grant is completing her dissertation research on the influence of human activity on carnivore behavioral patterns. As part of her research, she has tracked lions, been chased by an angry bull elephant, and dug hibernating female black bears out of their dens to count, weigh, measure, and tag their newborn cubs.

“The fact that I get to go out there and be up close and personal with these animals, doing my best to create important science, it feels like a dream,” she says.

Her dissertation focuses on a population of black bears in the Lake Tahoe Basin of western Nevada. The bears, which are not native to the area, have migrated from Northern California, and Wynn-Grant has been tracking their interaction with humans, their migration patterns, and their survival rates.

The journey from spellbound nature fangirl to intrepid conservation biologist started for her as an undergraduate at Emory. She took a broad range of classes, from social science to ure ecology, but got hooked on conservation biology.

Read more about Wynn-Grant and other animal research in the current issue of Emory Magzine.

Photo courtesy Rae Wynn-Grant

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