Our Research

The Santa Cruz Puma Project is a partnership between UC Santa Cruz and the California Department of Fish and Game. We began the work in 2008 with a number of complimentary goals enumerated below.  Follow us through our blog or on twitter and we’ll keep you up to date with the latest developments from the field as well as important results as they are published.

1 – We are a developing a state-of-the-art wildlife-tracking collar that simultaneously tracks the location and behavior of the animal wearing it.  This is accomplished by a GPS unit that communicates with an array of satellites and downloads its position at a user defined interval, an accelerometer which measures movements of the collar in all three spatial directions 64 times a second, and a magnetometer, an electronic compass which measures the orientation of the collar with respect to the earths magnetic field.  Powerful algorithms take in data from each device and report where the animal is and what it is doing.

2 – We are collecting data on wild mountain lions (Puma concolor) to better understand their physiology, behavior and ecology.  In particular, we are interested in the ecological consequences of puma predation on ungulates, the physiological differences between males and females, the ways in which mountain lions communicate with each other, and the impacts of mountain lions on other carnivore species such as coyotes, raccoons and skunks.  By using the new wildlife collars described above, we will be able to gain unprecedented new insights into each of these questions.

3 –  Through our research efforts we are aiming to develop a better understanding of the impacts of habitat fragmentation (roads, housing developments etc.) on mountain lion behavior, reproduction and movement.   We are particularly interested in understanding how mountain lion behavior changes as they get closer to human development, and in identifying the routes that mountain lions use to traverse the mountains.   Data from our study will be used by local NGO’s to identify conservation priorities as well as Caltrans to inform the placement of wildlife crossing structures across major freeways.