Justine Smith, PI

Justine joined the Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology department at UC Davis in January 2020. Her research interests include predator-prey interactions, movement behavior, foraging ecology, wildlife restoration, and human-wildlife interactions.


University of California, Berkeley Postdoctoral Scholar
University of California, Santa Cruz PhD: Environmental Studies
University of Colorado, Boulder BA: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Anthropology


justinesmith (at) ucdavis.edu


Ellie Bolas, PhD student

Co-advisor: John Benson, University of Nebraska

Ellie’s research interests include species interactions such as competition and predation, wildlife movement and habitat use, interactions between wildlife and humans, and island ecology. Her PhD research is in partnership with the National Park Service at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and examines mule deer behavior, spatial ecology, and predator-prey interactions with mountain lions relative to wildfire, human activity, and human development in the greater Los Angeles area. Her master’s research took place on the California Channel Islands. She investigated appropriate methods for monitoring island spotted skunks, and evaluated microhabitat associations and temporal activity by island spotted skunks and island foxes that may facilitate coexistence between the two. Outside of research, Ellie engages in initiatives to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education and science.


University of California, Davis  MS: Ecology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill  BA: Environmental Studies, Religious Studies


ebolas (at) ucdavis.edu


Olivia Feldman, PhD student

Olivia is interested in how wildlife, livestock and people interact in working landscapes, and how these dynamics shape human-wildlife conflict. Having grown up and worked in several countries in Latin America and South Asia where people, livestock and wildlife live alongside each other, Olivia is passionate about integrating people into the study of ecological interactions to improve conservation outcomes for both. Olivia is partnered with Rewilding Argentina (RA), and her doctoral research focuses on investigating mechanisms that drive conflict between sheep ranchers and wildlife in the Patagonia region of Argentina, using puma and guanaco collar data, camera trap data and planned experiments in the field. In her work with Rewilding Argentina, Olivia will work closely with other with other scientists (both American and Argentine), ranchers and local communities to promote human-wildlife coexistence and well-being in a recovering Patagonian landscape. Outside of her research, Olivia is passionate about making conservation science more inclusive and collaborative, especially when it is international.


Johns Hopkins University  MS: Environmental Studies
University of Virginia  BA: Foreign Affairs


ofeldman (at) ucdavis.edu


Emily Leonhardt, MS student

Emily’s research interests revolve around topics relevant to wildlife management and conservation, particularly wildlife space use and movement ecology.  In collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, she will be studying mule deer migration in the Sierra Nevada with a focus on behavioral plasticity and conservation prioritization.


University of Montana BS: Wildlife Biology, BA: Math


eleonhardt (at) ucdavis.edu


Greta Schmidt, visiting PhD student

Greta is part of the Joint Doctoral Program in Ecology between UC Davis and San Diego State University. She completed her MS at San Diego State University researching ocelot and bobcat spatial ecology in the context of roads and wildlife crossing structures in the southern part of Texas. Her PhD research is a collaboration with multiple groups supporting efforts to recover and reestablish Sonoran Pronghorn in Arizona and California. Her research interests include exploring what drives variation in wildlife abundance, distribution, and space use across landscapes, with an eye to the effects of human-mediated change.


San Diego State University MS: Biology
Boston University BA: Biology with a specialization in ecology and conservation biology


gschmidt (at) sdsu.edu


Undergraduate Researchers

Madison Cornish

Madison is a fourth-year Animal biology major with a minor in Wildlife Conservation Biology. She is currently working on her senior Practicum research project about the impact of wildfires on human development-related diel activity in bobcats in the Santa Monica Mountains. Madison is particularly interested in mammalian recovery after human related disturbances, and hopes to eventually work in rehabilitation and furthering the coexistence of wildlife and humans, with the possibility of obtaining a Master's degree in Wildlife Conservation and Ecology in the future.


mscornish [at] ucdavis.edu


Amida Verhey

Amida is a fourth-year Environmental Science and Management major focusing on applied wildlife ecology. He is currently working on his senior honors thesis in the lab, studying the impact of urban development and coyote interference competition on grey foxes in the Santa Monica Mountains. Amida is particularly interested in research that explores the impacts of anthropogenic environmental changes on wildlife, as well as integrating conservation methods and policy limitations into wildlife studies. He hopes to advance into academia with a conservation biology or wildlife ecology focused PhD program after a few years in the workforce after graduating.


azverhey [at] ucdavis.edu


Lab Alumni

Talia Soalt (undergraduate researcher)