Mike Mooring's Summer Research
Behaviorial Ecology and Conservation Biology in Costa Rica
My research is at the interface of behavioral ecology and conservation biology. With our Costa Rican partners and collaborators, my students and I are conducting a community-based conservation project in a cloud forest ecosystem in Costa Rica. For the past three years, we have conducted a camera trap study of the mammalian predators and prey inhabiting the high-elevation zone of the western Talamanca Cordillera. The Talamanca mountain range is the largest continuous block of protected montane cloud forest in Costa Rica, providing habitat for what is believed to be the largest population of Jaguar in the country. This region is a critical biological corridor for the movement of Jaguar and other large mammals such as Puma and Tapir. Due to rugged terrain and the elusive habits of mammals, there is a significant gap in our understanding of these montane populations. We use camera traps (motion sensor cameras) and fecal genetic analysis of scat to survey large mammals in 3 protected areas (Quetzales, Tapanti, and Chirripó National Parks) and two buffer zones (Savegre Valley, Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor). So far we have confirmed the presence of all major predators, including Jaguar, Puma, and the rare Oncilla. Our goal is to compare the altitudinal distribution, relative abundance, and activity budgets of predators and prey in buffer zones versus the protected areas. We currently are collaborating with a number of in-country conservation and academic organizations to provide critical population data that will guide conservation policy in Costa Rica in the coming years.