Broadly, I am interested in how to ensure efficient and effective conservation planning and management across developing landscapes. For the majority of my thesis research, I plan to focus on the open space landscape in central New Jersey, where increased development and fragmentation of the remaining natural habitat poses an imminent threat to conservation efforts. One aspect of this study will be putting together a comprehensive open space map for the region in order to ask landscape level questions about how the current open space distribution contributes to conservation goals. I intend to model how characteristics of open space preserves [such as size, position within the landscape matrix, and management] impact forest health and potentially the diversity of different bird guilds within these preserves. Once land is set aside for conservation purposes, it is important to ensure that it continues to provide healthy habitat for species of conservation interest, which is increasingly important to monitor in smaller preserves that might be dominated by edge effects. Using the results of this study, I plan to scale up to focus on the network of habitat created by the current open space preserve holdings and use population viability analyses to determine whether a few focal common and rarer NJ species can be supported by this network, now and under future development scenarios.
One additional aspect of the New Jersey conservation landscape I would like to focus on is the network of conservation and government organizations responsible for acquiring and managing open space preserves [from conservation easements and preserved farmland to state forests and state parks]. To what degree is there coordination or knowledge sharing between these groups? Between groups with shared conservation goals or shared geographic regions of focus? Can targeted interventions help create more efficient conservation action by coordinating cooperation between groups?