IamA predator-prey ecologist. I have studied American carnivores, grassland birds, urban wildlife, jackals and caracals in South Africa, mountain lions and bobcats, and squirrels. AMA!
Hi everyone, my name is Alex Potash and I’m a PhD student in Dr. Robert McCleery’s lab at the University of Florida.
My research interest is primarily in predator-prey interactions, with a focus on how fear of predation changes prey behavior, and how these behavioral changes cascade throughout the ecosystem. For my dissertation research I am studying how predator community complexity (the variation in diversity and abundance of predators) affects ecosystem processes. For example, does a squirrel cache an acorn in a different place when there are only coyotes present versus when there are coyotes, bobcats, pumas, and hawks? This type of question helps us better understand the role that different groups of species play in the environment, which is especially important at this moment in time when we’re losing species, especially top predators, at an unprecedented rate.
I recently published a paper from my master’s research showing that fox squirrels perceive predation risk in the environment based on canopy cover (overhead trees) and wall cover (on the ground shrubs, grasses, etc.). You can download a copy of the paper for free here.
I’ve worked with and studied many different animals in a lot of different systems including carnivores in Vermont, grassland birds in western Illinois, urban wildlife near Chicago, jackals and caracals in South Africa, mountain lions and bobcats in the greater L.A. area, and squirrels in Florida and Georgia. I’ve also worked with ranchers in Montana and Wyoming to better understand how dogs can be used to protect sheep from predators like wolves, grizzly bears, and coyotes.
I’m here to answer any questions you might have about my research, wildlife, and what it’s like to work in the wildlife field.
This AMA is part of a series by the UF/IFAS Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
Ok guys, Alex is done for this time. Thanks for all the great questions!--Social Media Manager Rhett