Mahdieh Tourani

Nationality: Iranian
Partner Institution: Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
Start and end date of PhD: 01.01.2017 – 01.01.2020
Supervisors: Drs. Richard Bischof (NMBU), Olivier Gimenez and Ali Nawaz

PhD title: Revealing anthropogenic effects on carnivore guilds using non-invasive monitoring

Research description:
Anthropogenic impacts on earth are staggering, making ours a truly human-dominated planet. In the face of pervasive human-induced change and influence, it is not surprising that much of today’s applied ecological research is focused on either understanding the magnitude and mechanism of such effects or learning how to mitigate them. The past two decades have seen the dawn of new, non-invasive approaches to monitoring terrestrial vertebrates that have suddenly made it feasible to obtain ecological parameters across landscapes and communities, rather than a few locations or single species. The two most popular and widespread of these methods are non-invasive genetic sampling and camera trapping. While the technical development associated with data collection have been impressive, analytical capabilities have lagged behind. Only now are we getting close to exploiting the potential of non-invasively obtained data. In my PhD project, I will apply modern hierarchical analytical methods to several extensive sets of monitoring data from Scandinavia and central Asia. In a series of four methodologically and conceptually connected studies, I will test for and quantify three globally important drivers of anthropogenic impacts on carnivore guilds: barrier effects through transportation networks, disturbance through human presence in the landscape, and illegal hunting. My PhD will not only help understand the extent and context-specificity of aforementioned effects on carnivore guilds, but also showcase how non-invasively collected data can be used to yield answers to a wide range of applied ecological questions.