Author Archives: Sara Monk

Wes Binder

PhD student – NSF Fellow

Originally from Michigan, I have spent the last ten years working for various wildlife research projects that have largely focused on mammalian population dynamics. From studying spotted hyenas in Kenya to cougars and mule deer in northern California, I have spent a lot of time in the field collecting data, sleeping in a tent, and getting to know wonderful people who have inspired my curiosities of wildlife. Most recently I have been working for the Yellowstone Cougar Project which focuses on understanding the role of this solitary carnivore living amongst a diverse predator and prey community.

I am stoked to be joining the Levi Lab to continue working with data from Yellowstone, develop quantitative skills, and learn from lab members who are conducting all sorts of cool science. Specifically, I hope my research improves our understanding of how intact predator guilds can exhibit positive effects on prey communities, and how such interactions are influenced by seasonal weather patterns. Besides wildlife, my other interests involve reading fantasy books, dreaming of snowy mountains with skis on my feet, throwing frisbees, and providing my dog with all the support she needs to fulfill her endless quest of finding the best place to hide bones, sticks, and other valuables found while walking through the woods.

Emily Dziedzic

Emily Dziedzic

MS Student

The route I took to become a Master’s student in the Levi Lab was fairly circuitous. A large swath of conservation land was my playground growing up and I was academically inclined toward quantitative pursuits but I took a detour through the art world before coming back to computer programming as a webmaster at a software development firm. After a time I decided to pursue something more meaningful so I returned to school and volunteered at the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery and the Julia Butler Hansen Wildlife Refuge with their Columbian White- Tailed Deer Project. Everything came into place when I realized that I could use my computer programming and quantitative abilities to help protect and preserve the natural world.

That we can use code to develop methods to analyze genetic code is fascinating to me. Continued advancements in sequencing technologies have made complex genetic analyses accessible to resource-deprived wildlife organizations and it is my goal to facilitate wildlife management and conservation efforts by developing novel molecular methods to monitor wildlife.

Meredith Pochardt

Meredith Pochardt

MS Winter 2019 (Now Executive Director of Takshanuk Watershed Council)

Growing up in upstate New York and spending lots of time tromping through streams and fields instilled a wonder about ecology. This continued through my undergraduate studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF, “stumpies”) where I majored in Environmental Science with a focus on watershed science and engineering. I then found my way to Alaska and have spent the past 7 years working for a small non-profit watershed council in Haines. My Masters research takes place in the large glacier fed rivers near Haines, AK. The focus is a small anadromous smelt species called eulachon or hooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus). Eulachon are a very important subsistence species for the Alaskan natives and vital forage fish for marine mammals and sea birds, however there is relatively little ecological knowledge about the species – limited population data, poor understanding of marine habitat, and unknown fidelity to natal streams, etc. My research will calibrate the concentration of environmental DNA (eDNA) against estimates of eulachon biomass from mark-recapture and catch-per-unit-effort methods. This relationship will provide insight into population monitoring techniques that can be implemented regionally.

Derek Spitz

Derek Spitz

Former Postdoctoral Research Associate, now postdoc at UC Santa Cruz

For many species, fitness is a function of an individual’s ability to match his or her behavior to available conditions. Thus in making decisions that affect their fitness, animals translate the conditions they experience into demographic consequences at the individual and population levels. I’m interested in: 1) exploring the causes and consequences of animal behavior, particularly with regards to movement; 2) using an understanding of the attendant cues, costs and incentives to enhance approaches to studying species distribution and abundance; and 3) applying 1&2 to inform management and conservation actions. These questions surrounding the extent of a species ability to adapt behaviorally to changing conditions are at the heart of understanding population-level vulnerability to anthropogenic change. In the service of these goals I’ve also taken an interest in developing platforms that improve the dissemination and application of important quantitative tools.

My PhD research focused on understanding how partial migration is maintained in federally-endangered Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep, but also included quantifying migratory behavior is several other ungulate systems. As part of this research I wrote the R package “migrateR”, which improves and automates model-driven methods for movement classification (available online at: As the Jack Ward Thomas Postdoctoral Fellow, I now contribute as a member of the Starkey Project. This collaboration extends my interest in ungulate movement ecology to a broader range of spatial and temporal scales, from quantifying the long-term effects of fire history on ungulates to evaluating the fitness consequences of fine-scale strategies for predator avoidance.

Brent Barry

Brent Barry

MS Spring 2018 (Now Wildlife Biologist with Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde)

I grew up outside of Chicago and spent my youth wandering the forests and lakes of the upper Midwest.  After receiving my undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont I moved west and have worked in many different places.  Most of my work has been focused on mustelids, and spotted owls in northern California and Oregon.  In my spare time I enjoy hiking, fly fishing, and spending time with my dog, Finn.

My master’s thesis in the Levi lab focuses on the distribution of fisher (Pekania pennanti) in southwestern Oregon and is nested in a multi-species monitoring framework.  Fisher are rare forest carnivores with relatively unknown distributions in Oregon.  I use remote cameras and genetic sampling to survey landscapes for these animals and ask additional questions about the ecology of carnivore guilds in the area.

Laurie Harrer

Laurie Harrer

MS Fall 2017 (now instructor at Oregon State University – Cascades)

I have worked in various fish and wildlife positions across the Western United States. I worked for the Birds and Burns project at Montana State University where I earned my B.S. in Fish and Wildlife Science. After graduating, I interned at an environmental consulting company in Tucson, AZ, where I participated in a wide variety of avian, reptilian and plant surveys. Over the last couple of years I have been working at a pharmaceutical research and development company in Bend, Oregon, but I am very excited to get back into wildlife at OSU.

My Master’s project in the Levi lab focuses on bears’ roles as seed dispersers in the Southeastern Alaskan ecosystem. Specifically, I am using qualitative and quantitative methods to determine which species consumes the largest proportion of berries from the widely dispersed shrub, Oplopanax horridus (Devil’s club). Due to the nature in which bears consume O. horridus, I am also researching this shrub’s potential to noninvasively monitor bear movement and density in this habitat.

Yasaman Shakeri

Yasaman Shakeri

MS Winter 2017 (now Wildlife Biologist with Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

Over the past five years I have been involved in various wildlife projects throughout the Western United States. I began working with small mammals and pumas while pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. After completing my degree, I spent the next three years deploying GPS collars to track the survival, feeding behavior and reproductive success of pumas in central California. I have also worked with wolves, golden eagles, black swifts and other wildlife throughout Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.  I am broadly interested in carnivore ecology, behavioral ecology and conservation efforts.

As a Masters student in the Levi lab, I will be investigating the ecological role of bears in the dispersal of a variety of fruiting plant species in Southeast Alaska.  The tremendous amounts of fruit consumed by bears results in seed filled scats throughout the landscape, which may provide a feasible foraging resource for small mammals during times of food scarcity and an important form of seed dispersal. Understanding the interspecific interactions between bears and small mammals will aid in a better understanding of the potential cascading effects of bears on small mammal populations and how it may impact avian predators and mesopredators.  

Felipe Pedrosa

Felipe Pedrosa

Visiting PhD student

There is no place in the world humankind has not put its footprint. Few remote places on earth are still primeval and healthy, but most of them have suffered habitat loss, defaunation, introduction of alien species, and many are degraded ecosystems. The role of the ecologist in the 21st century should be to deepen knowledge of the ecological consequences of the Anthropocene and addressing conservation policy, ecological restoration, and human wellbeing for future generations. 

I am from Brazil and currently doing my PhD at São Paulo State University – Rio Claro, Brazil (2014-) at Mauro Galetti’s lab ( and I came to Oregon State University for a one-year internship at Taal Levi’s lab (2017), with the support of FAPESP. In my thesis, I have been investigating the ecological and human dimension of feral hog Sus scrofa invasion. In the Neotropics, feral hogs are now a key ecological element of the landscape. On the one hand, we have a large-bodied vertebrate fulfilling interactions interrupted by fragmentation and defaunation processes, and on the other we have the need to control feral hog populations so they do not compromise human wellbeing. This work led me to participate in the formulation of the Federal Control Plan for feral hogs in Brazil. This is a permanent and continuous effort led by a diversity of stakeholders interested in adopting improved strategies for feral hog control nationwide. 

My current passion is Alaskan rainforest ecosystems, where I have been investigating the ecological interactions of salmon, bears and zoochoric plants. My permanent passions are being outdoors – hiking, biking, camping, traveling and experiencing new cultures.

Leona Wai

Leona Wai

Visiting MS student

I was born and raised in Borneo, Malaysia and doing a 5-months internship with the Fisheries and Wildlife Department, under the supervision of Nicole Duplaix and Taal Levi. I have finished my Bachelor degree in Conservation Biology in 2015 and currently pursuing my MSc in Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). My MSc project is on the ecology of otter in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, which focuses on their distribution, presence and absence across different habitat types in Kinabatangan river as well as investigating their activity pattern using camera trapping. I am very passionate about learning about the ecology of wildlife as I think it is important to know their ecology in order to establish an effective conservation plan for the wildlife. Besides wildlife, I also enjoy hiking, traveling and reading. I am hoping to gain more experiences and knowledge during my internship period and apply what I have learned in conservation management in my own country.

Disease Ecology

We work on a variety of disease systems. In the past, the community ecology of Lyme disease and tick-borne pathogens was a major focus. Currently we work on how deforestation in the southern Amazon interacts with biodiversity (hosts), vectors, and pathogens to influence disease risk to humans. Our primary focus is Leishmaniasis, which is transmitted by sand flies, but we also work with other pathogens. In addition, we work on developing and testing genetic tools to detect the fungal pathogen that causes white-nose syndrome in bats. We have recently started a project geared toward the treatment of infected bats in the field.

Relevant Publications

Sabino-Santos Jr., G., Fernandes, F.F, da Silva, D.J.F., Melo, D.M., da Silva, S.G., São Bernardo, C.S., Filho, M.D.S., Levi, T., Figueiredo, L.T.M., Peres, C.A., Bronzoni, R.V.M, Canale, G.R. 2019. Othohantavirus antibodies among phyllostomid bats from the arc of deforestation in Southern Amazonia, Brazil

Vieira C.J.S.P., Andrade, C.D, Kubiszeski, J.R., Silva D.J.F., Barreto, E.S., Massey, A.L., Canale, G.R., Bernardo, C.S.S., Levi, T., Peres, C.A., Bronzoni, R.V.M. 2019Detection of Ilheus virus in mosquitoes from Southern Amazon, Brazil. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Urbina, J., Chestnut, T., Schwalm, D., Allen, J.Levi, T. 2019. Experimental evaluation of degradation rates of genomic DNA of the pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) in bat guano. PeerJ

Ostfeld, R.S.*Levi, T.*, Keesing, F., Oggenfuss, K. Canham, C.D. 2018Tick-borne disease risk in a forest food web. Ecology*authors contributed equally

Kilpatrick, M., Dobson, A.D.M., Levi, T., Salkeld, D.J., Swei, A., Ginsberg, H.S., Kjemtrup, A., Padgett, K.A., Jensen, P.M., Fish, D., Ogden, N.H., Diuk-Wasser, M. 2017Lyme disease ecology in a changing world: consensus, uncertainty, and critical gaps for improving control. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B

Burtis, J.C., Sullivan, P., Ostfeld R.S., Levi, T., Yavitt, J.B., Fahey, T.J. 2016The impact of temperature and precipitation during Ixodes scapularis questing periods on human Lyme disease incidence and natural tick densities in long-term endemic and emerging regions. Parasites and Vectors

Levi, T., Keesing, F., Holt, R.D., Barfield, M., Ostfeld, R.S. 2016. Quantifying dilution and amplification in a community of hosts for tick-borne pathogens. Ecological Applications

Levi, T., Massey, A.L., Holt, R.D., Keesing, F., Ostfeld, R.S., Peres, C.A. 2016. Does biodiversity protect humans against infectious disease?: Comment. Ecology. 97: 536-546

Levi, T., Kilpatrick, A.M., Barfield, M., Holt, R.D., Mangel, M., Wilmers, C.C. 2015. Threshold levels of generalist predation determine consumer response to resource pulsesOikos

Levi, T., Keesing, F., Oggenfuss, K., Ostfeld, R.S. 2015. Accelerated phenology of blacklegged ticks under climate warmingPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 370: 20130556

Ostfeld, R.S., Levi, T., Jolles, A., Martin, L.B., Hosseini, P.R., Keesing, F. 2014. Life history and demographic drivers of reservoir competence for three tick-borne zoonotic pathogens. Plos ONE. 9(9) e107387

Levi, T., Kilpatrick, A.M., Mangel, M., Wilmers, C.C. 2012Deer, predators, and the emergence of Lyme diseaseProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.109:10942-10947