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  • Writer's pictureMarika

Earth, Wind, and Water: Conflict and Co-Existence with Dr. Misty McPhee, Dr. Bruce Schulte, and Dr. Mauricio Cantor 3/6

Updated: May 10


In an era where the conversation around conservation and animal behavior is gaining critical momentum, a panel of experts from diverse backgrounds and specializations came together to shed light on their research, observations, and the intricate dance of conflict and coexistence between humans and wildlife. This gathering of minds provided a rare glimpse into the lives of animals ranging from the ocean's depths to the vast landscapes of Africa and North America, and the human interactions that influence them.

Dr. Cantor is standing on the beach with the ocean and sunset behind him, he has long brown dreadlocks and and is smiling
Dr. Mauricio Cantor


Dr. Mauricio Cantor, an assistant professor at Oregon State University, is a behavior ecologist with a primary focus on marine mammals. His work revolves around understanding the behavior changes animals make to tackle fundamental challenges like finding food, socializing, and reproduction. Dr. Cantor’s research also delves into the symbiotic relationship between dolphins and humans in cooperative fisheries around the globe.

Dr. Schulte is hiking through a red rock formation
Dr. Bruce Schulte

Dr. Bruce Schulte, holding the position of Associate Vice President for Strategy, Performance, and Accountability and past Head of Department of Biology at Western Kentucky University, brings to the table his extensive research on elephants and other mega herbivores. His work explores both the positive and adverse interactions between these large land mammals and humans, offering insights into conflict resolution and cohabitation strategies.


Dr. McPhee is sitting in her office smiling she has a book shelf behind her.
Dr. Misty McPhee

Dr. Misty McPhee, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, specializes in wildlife reintroduction programs. Her current work involves the whooping crane reintroduction team,



focusing on behavioral studies and the ecological impact of reintroducing these endangered birds into the wild.


Unraveling Human-Wildlife Conflict

The discussion, delved into the conflicts arising out of human and wildlife interactions. Misty highlighted the clash between conservation efforts and human activities, drawing upon her experiences with crane populations in Wisconsin. The whooping cranes, endangered yet federally protected, and the abundant Sandhill cranes, illustrate the spectrum of conflicts from habitat restriction to agricultural damage.

Bruce elucidated on elephants' dual role: as a threat in direct human encounters and as victims of habitat encroachment. This duality underscores the broader theme of space—how animals and humans navigate the shrinking areas of wilderness that remain.

Mauricio discussed the indirect impacts of human activities on marine life, highlighting the complex relationship between cetaceans and fisheries. His research on cooperative fishing between dolphins and humans in specific global locales underscores a rare, positive interaction model that may inform broader conservation efforts.


Ecosystem Engineers and Their Roles

A fascinating aspect of the discussion concerned the concept of 'ecosystem engineers', where certain species, through their activities, shape their environments profoundly, influencing biodiversity. From beavers in river ecosystems to the significant role elephants play in shaping their habitats, these insights underline the importance of preserving such species that play critical roles in their ecosystems.


The Future of Human-Wildlife Coexistence

As the conversation wound down, the focus shifted towards the future—how can we foster a harmonious existence with the wildlife populations that share our planet? The panelists emphasized the significance of understanding animal behavior, the necessity of habitat preservation, and the potential of sustainable tourism as a means of promoting conservation.

Through their stories of personal encounters and scientific observations, the conversation illuminated the profound connection between humans and the natural world. The challenges are significant and complex, but so are the opportunities for positive change.


Final Thoughts

This gathering of minds revealed not only the challenges of conservation and cohabitation but also the boundless curiosity and respect that drives these scientists to understand our planet's remarkable inhabitants. Their work serves as a reminder of the intricate connections that bind us to the natural world and the urgent need to protect these ties for future generations.

As we navigate the Anthropocene, the insights from such discussions are invaluable in shaping a world where humans and wildlife can thrive side by side, honoring the delicate balance that sustains life on earth.


Join us in the next episode where we will discuss Urbanization and Industrialization (and racoons)!


(This blog post was based on an AI generated script and edited by me for accuracy and additional information)


Show Notes

Episode 3 of Series 10: Anthropogenic Change Transcript


This episode focuses on the complex interactions between humans and animals like elephants, cranes and cetaceans. We are discussing strategies such as having our human farming practices mimic more closely the natural environment , phasing out monocrop farming , And remembering the role of traditional knowledge in promoting harmonious relationships.


Guests: Dr. Bruce  Schulte is Associate Vice-President for Strategy, Performance and Accountability at Western Kentucky University (WKU) and a University Distinguished Professor.  Bruce has studied elephants now for over 30 years.  As a conservation behavior biologist, Bruce combines research on communication and other facets of animal behavior with applications for improving human wildlife interactions and wildlife conservation. 


Dr Misty McPhee, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, her Research Interests include Endangered Species, Conservation Biology, and Animal Behavior. All of Dr. McPhee’s courses revolve around issues of sustainability. She is a member of the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Team, conducting research designed to increase the success of the whooping crane reintroduction program in Wisconsin. Mcphee Lab


Dr Mauricio Cantor, a behavioural ecologist interested in understanding the dynamics of social, cultural and ecological systems. Mauricio is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Sciences at Oregon State University where he leads a research group

on the intersections of animal behavior and human dimensions. They focus on marine mammals due to their behavioral diversities, learning abilities, and social complexities. 



 Other Links: What's a Javelina?


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