Kirby Mills is a Ph.D. student in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan. She recently completed her master’s in environment and sustainability and for her internship worked with Dr. Nyeema Harris, on an expansive conservation project in West Africa. Located across Burkina Faso and Niger, the W-Arly-Pendjari complex is a protected area home to the largest remaining population of West Africa’s critically endangered lions.
Mills won the graduate student poster competition at the African Studies Center’s recent STEM conference, where she presented her work on West Africa’s endangered lion population. She utilized motion-sensor camera surveys to look at the spatial distribution and activity patterns of the lions. The STEM conference allowed Mills to further engage with scholars by building on her previous presentations at The North American Congress for Conservation Biology, The Wildlife Society, the Ecological Society of America, and the American Society of Mammalogists.
For her PhD, Mills is interested in the ecology of large carnivores and wants to develop research on how humans utilize protected areas in relation to wildlife in the region. Protected areas are often areas that are essential to the livelihoods of people, and this reality has important implications for ecological processes. One such implication includes predator-prey interactions. Mills will ask questions such as, how do large carnivores respond to humans and their livelihoods in protected areas? What effects do these responses have on broader ecological dynamics?
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