Mountain Lion Ecology and Conservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Mentor and lab: John Morgan – Santa Cruz Puma Project

Positions: 1 intern

Tentative dates: June 24 – August 30

Project Location: UCSC Main Campus and field days in Santa Cruz Mountains

Project Background: Mountain lions (Puma concolor) play an important ecological role as top predators in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We have been studying the local mountain lion population since 2008 using a combination of field and lab-based techniques, including GPS tracking collars and motion-sensor camera traps, to better understand how mountain lions persist in human-dominated landscapes. This summer we will continue to study mountain lion ecology in the Santa Cruz Mountains with a particular focus on understanding how mountain lions respond to different forms of human activity.

Intern duties: Interns will spend up to 3 days each week in the field investigating sites that mountain lions recently visited, identifying mountain lion prey items, characterizing den sites, and deploying camera traps. Interns will also work in the lab 2-3 days each week to help with data processing and analysis. The Camino intern will engage in one or more of the following projects:

  1. Tagging and processing camera trap images and audio logger recordings
  2. Creating weekly maps of mountain lion movement data, capture locations, and kill sites
  3. Characterizing mountain lion diet and estimating mountain lion home range sizes
  4. Estimating the spatiotemporal dynamics of human activity on local trail networks
  5. Estimating local mountain lion and black tailed deer abundances

In addition to assisting with ongoing research the Camino intern will have the option to develop an independent project based on their research interests.

Intern qualifications: We are seeking a highly motivated, enthusiastic, and independent intern that is interested in both field and lab-based research related to wildlife ecology. Our intern should be comfortable spending long days in the field, hiking off-trail through brush and poison oak, often under harsh weather conditions. Our intern should also be computer literate and comfortable with basic computer programs. Previous field experience and familiarity with R and GIS are all a plus but not required.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter? Yes, it would be great to meet you during the spring quarter so that you can meet our research team and become familiar with our research projects. However, this is not required.

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.