High mountains offer wilderness refuges in human dominated landscapes, and are a source of vital ecosystem services. Under intense threat from intensified land uses and climate change, their effective protection requires understanding of how ecosystems work, including biotic interactions as well as the dependency of local livelihoods on natural resources. With relative short food webs and highly specialised organisms, mountains are laboratories for nature providing ideal model systems to predict impacts of land use change and the effectiveness of conservation interventions.
My ongoing research focuses on the endangered Ethiopian wolf, the top Afroalpine predator, including behavioural ecology, long-term population dynamics and predator-prey relationships, alongside predictive modelling to inform disease control interventions and ecosystem responses to future wolf reintroductions. I am also investigating traditional natural Afroalpine resource management systems, and the role of alternative livelihoods in the conservation of Ethiopia’s highlands.
Doctoral topics include behavioural and ecological adaptations of Ethiopian wolves to increasing disturbance, and/or competition, from domestic dogs and African wolves (Canis lupaster), as well as responses to tourism, land conversion to agriculture and intensification of grazing and natural resource extraction. Studies will focus on Afroalpine ‘islands’ under diverse land uses and applications will include informing conservation translocations and cost-benefits of alternative livelihood systems. Related topics include the structure and dynamics of vegetation and rodent communities (dominant herbivores in high mountain ecosystems) in relation to land uses, with a focus on grasslands, bush encroachment, and wetlands. These fossorial rodents also provide opportunities to study their role as ecological engineers in maintaining the diversity and function of Afroalpine habitats.
Potential research methodologies will cut across fields and combine field methods, such radio-tracking of carnivores, diet studies, extensive sampling of plant and rodent communities (possibly assisted by drones) with predictive modelling, potentially adapting an existing Agent Base Model to explore alternative scenarios of interventions/land uses, and social sciences methodology to study human dimensions.
Jorgelina is eligible to be a co-supervisor.
Experience & Qualifications
DPhil, University of Oxford; carnivore ecology, behaviour and population dynamics
10 years as Senior Research Fellow at Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Zoology Department; Director of Science of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme; Tutor of Post-Graduate Diploma in International Conservation Practice since 2009; supervision of Doctoral and MSc students at Oxford University and abroad.