In collaboration with the National Park Service, La Kretz Postdoc Rachel Blakey is investigating how large wildfires, like the Woolsey fire of 2018, influence the movement and behavior of California’s top carnivore: the mountain lion. To do this, Rachel will leverage the National Park Service’s 17 years worth of GPS tracking data from the Los Angeles mountain lion population and work with JPL NASA scientists to characterize landscape structure before and after fire. Her goal is to help improve conservation and management of large carnivores that are faced with the dual pressures of urbanization and increases in wildfire.
Rachel’s previous work on the influence of fire regime and vegetation structure on top (avian) predators of Northern California has helped inform best conservation practices for USDA Forest Service. In her current study, the long-term dataset held by National Park Service and the increase in large wildfires in the region will allow her to expand on this work by studying response of a predator to fire in real time.