Biology graduate publishes research on 'Examining Human Perception of Elephants and Large Trees for Insights into Conservation of an African Savanna Ecosystem'
- Author: WKU Biology
- Author: Thursday, March 23rd, 2017
WKU biology graduate Adam Edge of Shepherdsville is the lead author of a paper titled “Examining Human Perception of Elephants and Large Trees for Insights into Conservation of an African Savanna Ecosystem” that has been published in the journal Human Dimensions of Wildlife.
Edge, a graduate of the Honors College at WKU and a FUSE grant recipient, conducted the work in South Africa in conjunction with Dr. Michelle Henley, Co-Founder and Director of Elephants Alive, and under the tutelage of Dr. Jerry Daday, Associate Professor of Sociology and Executive Director of the Center for Faculty Development & the Online Learning Research Office, and his Honors thesis advisor Dr. Bruce A. Schulte, head of the Department of Biology.
The study used a questionnaire to determine the perceptions of residents and tourists on elephants, large tree and elephant management practices in the Associate Private Nature Reserves around Kruger National Park in South Africa. Elephants modify savanna habitat by breaking and feeding on tree branches and even knocking down trees.
The objective was to evaluate people’s perceptions toward elephants, a primary draw for tourism, and habitat with intact trees and those modified in form by elephants. The findings showed that respondents place a high attractiveness ranking on elephants of all types (large males and smaller females) and intact trees.
The results suggest that respondents did not connect particular types of elephants with extensive modification of trees. This creates a quandary for management of savanna ecosystems in which elephant movements are limited because of available space. While residents favored more intrusive elephant management techniques than tourists, both advocated ecosystem functioning over elephant population control. The hope is that wildlife managers will use this study to help form an economically and environmentally friendly ecosystem and elephant management plan.
Edge was the corresponding author on the publication and through this process has gained valuable insight into the complete scientific process.
Following his experience in South Africa, Edge worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on migrating salmon escapement counts as the fish returned upriver to spawn. Following his graduation from WKU in May 2014, he held several wildlife technician positions, which included working for Louisiana State University to aid with a wild turkey reproductive ecology study, assisting the University of Missouri with a deer survival study, and currently working for the Fort Knox Department of Natural Resources to manage wildlife habitat.
“Through these experiences I have found my passion in the field of wildlife conservation, and it is an amazing feeling to see my work employed for real-world situations,” Edge said. “I am grateful for the support I have received along the way, and I hope to keep building strong relationships with those around me. I can humbly say that this is all in the name of where I found my beginning…Western Kentucky University.”
Edge will continue his scientific education in a Master of Science degree at the University of Georgia where he will be studying whitetail deer conservation and management.
The paper is available online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10871209.2017.1298168.
Contact: Bruce Schulte, (270) 745-4856