Bear locs

Bear locs

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Title for “Faculty Labs” at <>: Walter Spatial Ecology Lab

Welcome to the Walter Applied Spatial Ecology Laboratory!  We are housed in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Pennsylvania State University. Our research focuses on conducting wildlife research, both basic and applied, on large ecological datasets that provide an unique opportunity to explicitly incorporate sources of spatial and temporal variability into understanding motivations for an organism’s movements, resource selection, subpopulation structuring, or presence in a landscape.  These large-scale ecological datasets provide a powerful tool for addressing research questions at a regional level that can also be evaluated by future researchers. Within this broader framework, the primary research interests that direct the types of projects in the lab are: (1) methodologies for spatial analysis of mammalian and avian datasets to determine ecological drivers of movements, resource selection, and presence/absence; (2) monitoring occurrences of disease to link demographic and environmental influences on disease transmission and spread, and (3) landscape genetics of various taxa for monitoring of population size, relatedness, and subpopulation structuring across ecosystems and barriers to gene flow.

Latest News (as Matt Hurteau’s Earth System’s lab page)

Below are links on left side of page (in bold here with paragraph(s) as text on each page or lists under heading):
(Mary, the first 3 bullets could be subheadings under “Additional Labs” but not sure how I want them organized yet. Is this something I would be able to edit down the road? Two of the three are actual labs in FRB so “research” heading just does not cover it in my opinion)
•    Spatial Data Analysis Lab
The Applied Spatial Ecology Lab provides assistance to university faculty, graduate students, and state/federal collaborating agencies.  The large-scale availability of animal location data and data layers for Geographic Information Systems has increased the need for appropriate data compilation, storage, and formats for future research of data generated during research projects at the regional, national, and international scales.  Our laboratory has a full-time lab manager that oversees the daily operation of data compilation, organization, and use of data that has been generated from our research.  The lab manager provides assistance by integrating GIS layers with location-specific data of study species that include animals monitored by Global Positioning System technology, wildlife disease surveillance, or genetic sampling.  Our laboratory’s data is housed on an online infrastructure,, that can be accessed by a request to the laboratory by collaborators.  Our laboratory functions as a research center and data portal to streamline data acquisition, analysis, and dissemination among collaborators to facilitate timely research and appropriate study designs with datasets available at appropriate spatial scales. 

Currently, we have 474,919 locations encompassing 5 mammalian species and 3 avian species equipped with GPS technology and 2 species collected during surveillance studies for disease/harvest.  The datasets compiled are from 9 states in the US with collaborations from 7 Universities, 6 state wildlife management agencies, and 2 federal agencies. 

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Mary, could I have a link on the main page here to post my online manual?

•    Population Genetics Lab
The Population Genetics Lab includes a lab for analyzing low-quality (e.g., hair, scat) and high-quality (e.g., tissue, blood) genetic samples.  The purpose of the Population Genetics Laboratory is for assessing, managing and analyzing datasets on the genetics of various species at the regional/national level to make informed management decisions.  The wide-scale employment of non-invasive sampling methods (fecal collection, hair snares) along with tissue samples available from captured/harvested animals has changed our ability to monitor population size, movement patterns, or success/failure of reintroduction programs.  The laboratory provides a facility for DNA sample preparation, extraction, amplification, and genotyping for university, state, and federal collaborators and employs a full-time laboratory manager to assist in assuring laboratory protocols and procedures are maintained to prevent cross-contamination among concurrent studies.  Reliable and detailed results from population genetic studies provide collaborators with the ability to make informed resource management decisions for sustaining wildlife populations, managing disease transmission and spread, and success of reintroduced or supplemented populations of wildlife. 

•    Stable Isotope Ecology Lab
The Stable Isotope Ecology Lab provides methods and study design assistance for research involving stable isotopes in animal ecology.  As the need to understand response of organisms to climate change, changing landscape management priorities, trophic interactions in response to invasive species, and disease epidemiology continues, our ability to assess these responses are often hindered by logistics of studying an adequate number of research organisms.  Researchers are constantly exploring the most logistically and economically efficient methods to obtain research objectives.  Use of stable isotopes in ecological research has provided numerous benefits to non-invasively sample wildlife species or maximize knowledge gained from harvested or captured individuals.  Stable isotopes have been used to identify nutrition, dietary selection, migration, and natal origin for a variety of taxa.
Our Stable Isotope Ecology Laboratory has provided researchers with a variety of methods to explore ecology of various organisms.  We provide methods for researchers to follow to: select the proper tissue to represent the appropriate temporal scale desired for stable isotope research, select the proper isotope (e.g., carbon, nitrogen) based on objectives of research, and process feces, tissue, or integument available to researchers.  We have used stable isotopes to determine effects of anthropogenic activity on organisms, identify subpopulations differences among similar species occupying disparate landscapes, or assign individuals to the most likely landscape of origin.  As logistics and funding often limit our ability to achieve research objectives, stable isotopes can provide information on organisms at the regional scale that would not be possible with various invasive monitoring protocols (e.g., capturing and marking).
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•    Lab members: PI, Postdocs, Graduate Students, Lab Alumni (as Matt Hurteau’s Earth System’s lab page)
•    Join the lab (as Jason Kaye’s Biogeochemistry lab page)
•    Publications (as Matt Hurteau’s Earth System’s lab page)
•    Research projects (as Matt Hurteau’s Earth System’s lab page)
•    Workshops
Our lab provides a 2-day short course on Applied Spatial Ecology in the programming language R to all researchers with an interest and desire to learn spatial analysis in a single program environment.  We also continue to provide technical advice to cooperators on a variety of wildlife-related research questions.
Mary, could I have a link on the main page here to post flyers for workshops or courses?
•    Photos  (as Matt Hurteau’s Earth System’s lab page)
•    Contact (below if possible as we discussed on the front page)
W. David Walter, Ph.D.
Assistant Unit Leader and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology
U.S. Geological Survey
Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
Pennsylvania State University
403 Forest Resources Bldg
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814)867-4763null(814)867-4763
Fax: (814)863-4710

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