Michelle grew up in a small town near Cleveland Ohio, USA. However, her love for nature and sense of adventure drew her to northern California where she obtained a BS degree in Wildlife Conservation and Management. Upon graduating, Michelle took on a wide range of field positions including working with pygmy rabbits in Idaho and elephants in South Africa with employers such as the Smithsonian Institute, World Wildlife Fund and government wildlife agencies. Thereafter, she obtained a position as biologist for a large forestry company and oversaw the wildlife and botany program for her region. There, Michelle spent countless hours both day and night tracking rare species in the forest with her beloved canine partner, Knysna. Her favorite aspect of the job was assisting in the re-introduction of an elusive forest carnivore, the fisher (Pekania pennanti), to its historic range in the Sierra Mountains. While she enjoyed her work, the desire to explore conservation efforts outside the US remained strong. Michelle therefore quit her job to travel and volunteer abroad. Over the course of a year and a half, she had the pleasure of assisting on wildlife projects in SE Asia, Australia, and southern Africa. Highlights were trapping Tasmanian devils for a facial tumor disease study and tracking caracal in Table Mountain region. Michelle’s research interests include re-introduction ecology, biodiversity monitoring, and sustainable forestry. From experience, she believes that the co-existence of humans and wildlife is possible when combined with common sense and science-based adaptive management strategies for the sustainable use of natural resources. She is excited to be back in an academic setting in one of her favourite parts of the world. Her hope is that the Conservation Biology Masters program will strengthen her skills as a biologist, so she may be of better service to our exhausted planet.
Causes and rates of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) mortality in South African reserves. (Supervisors: Justin O'Riain, Vincent van der Merwe, Vincent Naude)