Whisper - Volume 9 - January 2020

whisper-9-01.jpgDear Friends,

Happy New Year and welcome back to Winter quarter! Hope your winter break was a joy and you're feeling refreshed and ready for 2020. Please take a moment to scroll through our winter edition of the quarterly newsletter highlighting the Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology.

Keep in touch by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, sending us an email, or dropping by one of our department seminars. The seminars run 4/quarter or every three weeks. You can find the entire quarter of talks on our website or on the lobby screen.


Nann Fangue and Pernille Sporon Bøving

Please welcome our two new faculty, Dr. Justine Smith and Dr. Kiva Oken


Research in the Smith Lab focuses on how to best preserve the ecological roles of carnivores and herbivores in shared landscapes by investigating human-wildlife interactions and risk effects in both predator and prey.

Link to Justine's research publications.

whisper-9-03.jpgThe quantitative fisheries ecology lab at UC Davis uses cutting edge mathematical models and statistical tools to study the ecology, conservation, and management of marine fisheries. More specifically, we explore population, food web, and community dynamics in exploited marine ecosystems; evaluate and advance tools for ecosystem-based fisheries management; and develop and test statistical methods in fisheries and ecology. Link to Kiva's research publications.

News From The Field

whisper-9-04a.jpgBy Sidney Woodruff - Ph.D Student in the Todd Lab

This past summer, Sidney Woodruff and Trinity Pineda worked together in Yosemite National Park, capturing Western pond turtles for a longterm capture-mark-recapture study done by the Aquatics Restoration team for the National Park Service. Under Sidney's guidance, Trinity collected and analyzed data on various trap styles and models, testing their effectiveness in capturing different life stages of the native and state-protected turtle. Trinity presented her data in a public forum to Yosemite National Park biologists and rangers at the end of the season, and they were blown away with her professionalism and ability to conduct research in such a short time period. The two UC Davis students loved working together and backpacking out to remote sites, often for 8 days at a time. Trinity Pineda is a senior in WFCB and completed the Latino Heritage Internship Program with the Environment for the Americas to work at Yosemite National Park. Sidney Woodruff is a first-year PhD student in the Graduate Group in Ecology, and has been working with the Yosemite National Park Service since 2017.

whisper-9-05a.jpgBy Ellie Bolas - Ph.D student in Van Vuren and Smith Labs

"Do you ever get sprayed?!?!" That's one of the most common questions about my master's research studying island spotted skunks (Spilogale gracilis amphiala) on the California Channel Islands. The answer is yes! The first time I was sprayed while wearing my favorite puffy jacket, which was my only pillow for a week of field work. Spotted skunks release spray from anal glands, and they have excellent aim: I’ve also been sprayed in the mouth and directly in the eye. Thankfully, the spray from spotted skunks is less persistent than that of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) because it lacks thioacetates, the set of chemicals that contribute to the entire car smelling when you drive past a road-kill striped skunk. To avoid being sprayed, I keep the skunk’s tail tucked in its legs and use a gallon ziplock as part of the highly technical “skunk-in-a-bag” technique. The skunks are not enthusiastic about my anti-spraying efforts: in the accompanying photo, this young female skunk (300 grams) is biting the bag to demonstrate her ferocity.  



By Jeffrey T. Kerby
Postdoctoral Researcher in the Post Lab.

Tracking the Rhythms of Alpine Primates. Photography and Appreciating Downtime while Studying Ethiopia's Gelada Monkeys - Dr. Jeff Kerby - National Geographic Photographer and ecologist shares his views on photography during breaks from his ecological research in Ethiopia. Jeff is currently working as a postdoc in the Post Lab studying the evolutionary ecology of plant and herbivore foraging and reproductive phenology in Arctic and alpine systems.

whisper-9-07a.jpgCongratulations to Dr. Joe Cech upon receiving the 2019 William E. Ricker Resource Conservation Award from the American Fisheries Society, at the Society’s annual meeting in Reno, Nevada. 


Congratulations to Dr. Peter Moyle - For being awarded the Fly-Fishermans 2020 Conservationist of the year.

Western Rivers Conservancy will receive a $10,000 grant from Simms Fishing Products in Peter's name.


New research has found the recovery and conservation of the Koloa duck have been successful...Read the story here

Photo by Christopher Malachowski

whisper-9-10a.jpgA Student's Perspective - Spotlight on a WFCB Major

Name: Victoria Varberg, Class of 2020
Describe your job/internship with or via the WFCB department and who are you working with?
I am currently working on a meta-analysis studying social behavior in sharks. I am assisting Alex McInturf, a current PhD candidate, on this project. Sharks are generally not thought of as the most social of animals yet evidence suggests that they do express sociality. We are working to compile all of the primary literature that mentions social behavior conducted across all species of sharks. The goal of this project is to create a database containing all the physiological and behavioral data of all species of sharks in hopes that we might be able to draw conclusions about how sociality has evolved in sharks. Even without those extrapolations, the data will be useful in providing a base from which new research on social behavior can be built.
What has been your “take away” from being part of the project?
This project has given me firsthand knowledge of the status of current shark research. I have also learned the skills necessary to conduct an extensive literature review - necessary for any future research. I have learned how to read scientific papers which can
impact my ability to write proper scientific papers in the future. That being said, the greatest takeaway from this experience has resulted from getting connected with grad students and faculty as well as being involved in “real” research. Since joining this
project I have realized that I love doing research and from interacting more closely with grad students, I have realized that I do want to go to grad school. These realizations directly impact what I am going to do with my life over these next few years. The
foundational understanding of shark biology and research also provides me with a strong understanding of a study system that I am able to base further research on.
Please tell us one of your “aha” and your “wow” moments as a WFCB student.
One of my “aha” moments came during my study abroad in Peru. As we read case-studies, met with locals and explored the biodiversity, I was faced with a conflict between conservation and community development. In poverty-stricken towns, people were often forced to poach, log or mine for gold as a means of survival. I was struck by the ethical dilemma that sometimes promoting conservation and protecting biodiversity can cause direct harm to local people and communities. This sparked the desire within me to fight for both sides of the picture. There are many success stories where people have found ways to use conservation to stimulate the economy. I would like to be a part of discovering more solutions like this and I hope that my future research can better inform decision-makers in this field.
If you had a line of advice for current WFCB students, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to connect with professors and faculty. I wasn’t brave enough to reach out until my senior year and I wish I had gotten connected sooner! Everyone in WFCB is so supportive and easy to work with. You also don’t know who might end up changing your life by giving you the connection you needed for your next step.
What would be your dream job after you graduate?

As I mentioned previously, I would love to do research after I graduate and I think that grad school is next on my agenda. Eventually however, I would like to work in the intersection between conservation and community development. I would like to work towards finding economic solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. This might mean direct involvement by working to find those solutions or it might mean being involved in research that can better inform decision-makes for these solutions. We share this planet with both
wildlife and other people and it is critical that we find ways to improve the situation of both.

whisper-9-11a.jpgWhere Are They Now? - Spotlight on a WFCB Alumni

Name: Vanessa ZoBell
Bachelor's of Science in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. Class of 2017
What is your current job?
I’m currently a PhD student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the Biological Oceanography program. I’m in the Whale Acoustic Lab with Dr. John Hildebrand. My research focuses on investigating the impacts of noise pollution from commercial shipping on blue and fin whales in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
Could you describe one of your typical work days?
As a graduate student, on a typical day I’m either in class, doing research, or in a meeting! There is a lot of homework in my classes, so that can sometimes take up a lot of time. We also have midterms and finals just like undergrad so I also spend a lot of time studying for those!

Every 5 months I retrieve and re-deploy underwater recording devices so when I do that, I am on a research vessel near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary putting together very complex equipment to throw into the ocean!
What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
I code A LOT. I use MatLab, R, and Python for different things I need to do with my research. I remember in undergrad thinking coding was the most impossible thing in the world, but with persistence and patience, ANYONE can code. Everything you need to learn is already on google or YouTube I promise!

Other skills that are needed for graduate school in marine sciences are persistence, enthusiasm, dedication, and ambition!
What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
Math! I was required to take a lot of math classes (linear algebra, differential equations, analytical math for engineers, advanced statistics) during my first year of graduate school which was very hard, but proved to be really helpful. I recommend taking as much math classes as you can if you’re interested in doing research. It will give you a huge leg up when you start graduate school, and allow you to do really cool things with your research! As long as you have an open mind, you can do anything!
Writing was also a challenge. Last year I was applying to three different fellowships and wrote a lot of proposals. I hadn’t done a lot of writing in undergrad so this was hard for me, but it definitely made me a better writer in the process.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
Going to sea! I love being on the water, it’s so quiet and beautiful. I recently went to sea and when the sun went down there were hundreds of dolphins bow riding and splashing in bioluminescence! It was so magical.

I think it’s really important to be connected to the place you study, and to get in the field as much as possible! Going to sea and seeing critters in the wild re-solidifies my passion for wildlife conservation and protecting these wild systems.
What advice do you have for current WFCB students?
Don’t. Give. Up. With dedication and enthusiasm, you can get to the places you want to be. When I tell people I study whales, I always hear the response “Oh I used to want to do that too.” And I always think “So why didn’t you?!”  
Never give up on yourself. It can get hard when you have to take on 10 hour un-paid internships and nanny on your off days to get by, but seeing the sunset in the middle of the ocean makes all of those un-paid internships worth it!

Your may reach me here: Vanessa ZoBell, PhD Student, Whale Acoustics Lab
Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar, Wyer Family Fellow, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ritter Hall 117, vmzobell@ucsd.edu / 858-334-5864


Social Links to Conservation on Small Pacific Islands - Student Conservation Corner Blog

2009: floods consume the island of Fiji. 2012: two more floods are caused by the Tropical Cyclone Evan. 2016: Cyclone Winston, reported as being the most powerful storm in the South Pacific’s history, struck the island. Climate change is dramatically affecting the intensity and frequency of natural disasters occurring on small Pacific islands (Neef et al. 2018)... Read the story here

whisper-9-13.jpgSite Visits - From The Putah Creek Nestbox Highway Blog

Between the bouts of rain, I spent time at some of our sites to make sure our bird survey areas were marked. It’s also a good opportunity to check if the nestboxes are still up. After the strong winds and rain.... Read the story here

whisper-9-14.jpgA Change of Plans - From California WaterBlog

The 1957 California Water Plan was ambitious for its time, and successful in its own way for a time. This plan was the ultimate major water project...(by Jay Lund) Read the story here


whisper-9-15a.jpgDepartment Seminars - All Are Welcome

What: WFCB seminar series where graduate students, research staff, post docs, alumni and faculty showcase their latest work. The seminar features 15 minute presentations by 3 people, each followed by a 5 minute Q&A. It's a great way to learn about all the research within WFCB.
When: January 8th Dr. Luke Frishkoff, January 29th Daniel Paredes | Charles Nicholson | Scott Jones, February 19th Kiva Oken | Jena Hickey | Ken Zillig, March 11th Cody Aylward | Cathy Brown | Alexandra McInturf @ 4:10 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Where: 1138 Foster Room in Meyer Hall on UC Davis Campus

whisper-9-16a.jpgAnnouncing dates for the Great Causeway Bat Counts!  Join in on a day of community science and camaraderie by taking part in the third annual count of the Yolo Causeway bat colony. Pre-pup count: Sunday May 31, 2020 (weekend after Memorial Day). Post-pup count: Saturday, August 22, 2020. Interested? Email yolobatcount@gmail.com. Contact: Leila Harris, PhD Student, GGE, Kelt Lab. Supported by the Yolo Basin Foundation.


Your gifts provide the extra support that enables our students and faculty to reach their fullest potential. Your gifts support experiential learning opportunities, allow scientists to be especially innovative in their research, and keep undergraduate and graduate training financially accessible.

Please contact Pam Pacelli, Sr. Director of Development pmpacelli@ucdavis.edu 530.867.3679 or department chair Nann Fangue nafangue@ucdavis.edu for more information or to discuss impactful gift opportunities. Giving is also easy online.

Connect With Our 2019/20 Advising Team

Brian Todd (Master Adviser)
John Liu (Peer Adviser)
Trinity Pineda (Peer Adviser)

Contact them here: wfcbadvising@ucdavis.edu