Rob Pringle, Associate Professor
I have always been fascinated by the ways in which species interactions “cascade” through food webs and other ecological networks, often with surprising outcomes. Research in my lab focuses on three main problems. The first is trying to understand the ways in which large mammalian herbivores directly and indirectly shape the ecosystems they inhabit: how do they affect plants and other animals, and what can this tell us about the likely impacts of past and future extinctions? A related focus is on how top predators structure communities by altering the abundance and behavior of their prey. Finally, I am interested in the spatial organization of these ecosystems–specifically, how regular patterns created by ecosystem engineers like termites influence the behavior of individuals, populations, and ecosystems. Google Scholar profile / ResearchGate profile / Twitter @rob_pringle [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
I have always been interested in how species interact and structure ecosystems. I have mainly worked in African savanna ecosystems on how organisms affect and change their environment, including other organisms. Recently, I have begun investigating how people and wildlife interact, and how we can increase ecosystem stability as the pressure on savanna ecosystems increases due to human population growth and climate change. Most of my PhD research was done in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, South Africa. During my postdoc, I aim to quantify how regional gradients in rainfall and soil fertility shape ecosystem organization, with consequences for resilience, tipping points, and alternative states, and with specific attention to spatial interactions between landscape zones in the Serengeti Ecosystem. My work in the Pringle Lab deals with spatial patterning and its effects on ecosystem stability.
My research focuses on predator-prey interactions—specifically, how predators such as lions, hyenas, cheetahs, wild dogs, leopards, and wolves change prey behavior and demography in ways that impact species coexistence and ecosystem functioning. My work incorporates behavioral and demographic information from long-term predator monitoring projects, camera-trap data, and manipulative experiments. During my PhD, I studied the dynamic temporal component of ‘landscapes of fear’ across eastern and southern Africa (primarily in Serengeti National Park). In the Pringle lab, I will investigate how prey mitigate risk from multiple interacting predators, particularly in ecosystems where predator-predator and predator-prey relationships are re-establishing thanks to conservation and restoration efforts.
I’m interested in community ecology and its application to conservation, especially in African savanna systems. In Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, civil war caused the catastrophic decline of large mammal populations. There, I’m investigating how ecosystems reassemble after a collapse, particularly the role of large mammals in shaping vegetation communities. During my undergraduate work, I studied baboon behavior in Tanzania and South Africa, and graduated with a BSc in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley in 2010. Afterward, I assisted on a meerkat behavior study in South Africa and investigated the role of hippos in a river ecosystem at Mpala Research Center in Kenya. [Website] [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
I am interested in species interactions, particularly plant-animal interactions, and how these interactions inform conservation. Much of my previous experience has been in grasslands; after graduating from Cornell University in 2012, I spent a year in Indonesia on a Fulbright scholarship researching the impacts of grazing on a grassland in Java. Since then, I have had the opportunity to apply ecological principles to improve forage quality on pastures in New England. As an undergrad, I studied the natural history of a poorly known bird species in India. [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
Broadly, I am interested in the way in which species interact and how, as a collective, those species and their interactions form ecological communities. I am particularly interested in two areas; i) how the niche concept informs species coexistence, and ii) the way in which ecological networks that include multiple types of species interactions can be used to better understand ecological community dynamics. I graduated with a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the University of Canterbury in 2015 where my research focussed on the role that a species’ evolutionary history plays in structuring its interactions with other species.
LAB MANAGER AND TECHNICIANS
My research interests span multiple disciplines. Prior to joining the Pringle Lab I was involved in a wide variety of genomic, molecular biological and immunological projects. In addition, while I have studied a vast range of model organisms primarily within lab settings, I have also had several opportunities for field research as well. This varied background has prepared me for my current project metabarcoding large and small mammal samples for diet analysis. I eagerly look forward to many new projects and opportunities.
I am a field-based biodiversity and ecological-research technician in Laikipia, Kenya. I have worked with the Pringle Lab since 2005 and help to oversee the UHURU Large-Herbivore Exclosure Experiment at the Mpala Research Centre. I have a particular interest in botany, and in understanding how large mammalian herbivores shape savanna ecosystems.
I work with the Pringle and Tarnita Labs at the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya. There, I help to oversee several large-scale and small-scale field experiments focusing on how termites and large mammalian herbivores affect plant and animal communities.
Ana Gledis da Conceição Miranda
I am a full-time research technician with the Pringle Lab in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. I have worked on several projects related to understanding the restoration of the Gorongosa ecosystem. My particular interest is mammals, including bats. I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in mammalogy and conservation biology.
HALL OF FAME: PRINGLE LAB ALUMNI
Jessica Castillo Vardaro
Jess is a brilliant and versatile scientist whose research interests lie at the interface of conservation genetics and landscape ecology. As a PhD student in the Epps Lab at Oregon State, she studied pikas. As a post-doc in the Pringle Tarnita Labs from 2015 until just now (July 2018), Jess led a multi-species behavioral, ecological, and population-genetic study of termites in Kenya, to understand how competition influences population structure and spatial self-organization. She also is the first to work out molecular techniques for studying termite diets! Jess is moving on to start her own lab at San Jose State — but first she’ll be stopping for a stint as a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Berkeley. We’ll post her lab webpage here once it’s up!
Johan, a world-class molecular ecologist, was a post-doc in the lab from 2016 to 2018, after completing his PhD under the tutelage of eDNA pioneers at Université Grenoble Alpes. Building on our lab’s prior work using DNA metabarcoding to study large-herbivore diets in Africa, Johan led (and continues to lead!) a pioneering effort to characterize large-mammal food webs throughout southeastern Africa. At last count, the dataset included high-resolution diet data for dozens of species from 10 ecosystems in seven countries. His intrepid poop-collecting expedition through Zambia, Malawi, and northern Mozambique is the stuff of legend (and made the PI very jealous). We’re looking forward to sharing these results very soon. In the meantime, Johan has moved on to a prestigious Marie Skłodowski-Curie Fellowship, based with CSIRO (in Sydney, making us jealous again…)
Tyler came into the lab as a phenom out of Brown University, where he had worked as an undergraduate in the Bertness Lab on the trophic ecology of salt-marsh ecosystems in New England. During his PhD work at Princeton, Tyler made a number of fascinating discoveries about the effects of elephants and other large herbivores on plant communities and plant antiherbivore defenses in African savannas. Tyler is a powerhouse of an experimental field biologist, but he was also occasionally spotted around Princeton wielding a pipette in the vonHoldt Lab and theorizing with theoreticians. He is among the inaugural cohort of Presidential Postdoctoral Fellows at Cornell University, where he is working with Anurag Agrawal. [Website]
Chris is a multi-talented ecologist, evolutionary biologist, and naturalist who uses molecular tools to understand ecological patterns and species interactions. After completing his PhD at Harvard, Chris joined the Pringle and Tarnita Labs as a post-doc from 2015 to 2017. With us, he spearheaded an exciting project focusing on how termite mounds in African savannas generate spatial patterns that propagate throughout the ecosystem. Specifically, Chris used DNA metabarcoding in conjunction with large-scale manipulative field experiments to explore the diversity and composition of soil microbial communities at the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya. Chris has moved on to the Pierce Lab at Harvard, where he is working on disentangling leech-host food webs (among other things, we are sure). [Website] [Curriculum Vitae (PDF)]
Josh was the inaugural Pringleton, our first PhD Student. He left an indelible legacy — not least by coining the term “Pringletons,” which we have finally, grudgingly endorsed as nickname for the group (mainly out of nostalgia for Josh now that he’s moved on). His PhD work on the effects of armed conflict on wildlife populations and ecological dynamics was first-rate and first-of-its-kind, and Josh helped to spark the then-nascent ecological research program in Gorongosa National Park. Josh is now a Donnelley Fellow in the EEB Department at Yale University, working with the great Carla Staver. Fortunately for us, we still cross paths with Josh regularly in Gorongosa. [Website]
Tyler was with us from 2013 to 2017, first as a Pringleton post-doc and later as a TNC NatureNet Fellow. He left Princeton to join the faculty at Brown University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and a Fellow in the Institute at Brown for Environment & Society. Tyler built the Pringleton molecular lab from the ground up and led our first forays into DNA metabarcoding; we still work with him on projects in Kenya. Check out his lab webpage below, and if you are a prospective graduate student or postdoc interested in the Pringle Lab, you should also consider Tyler’s lab. He is a fantastic scientist and a great mentor. [Website]
Former post-doc Ryan Long (2013-2014) is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho! Ryan is one of the best human beings we’ve ever met, and he is also one of the best scientists and ungulate wranglers. We have yet to meet his match in terms of expertise in mammalian physiological ecology, movement ecology, and their interface. We continue to collaborate with Ryan on a long-term NSF-funded study on the ecology, behavior, and energetics of spiral-horned antelopes (that’s bushbuck, nyala, and kudu for you big-mammal noobs) in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. [Website]
Former Lab Manager Patty Chen (2013-2015) has moved on to post-baccalaureate studies at Columbia University and is conducting clinical research at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She was a fantastic lab manager and a key contributor to several papers. She is going to be a life-saving physician someday soon, and we were very fortunate to have her in our orbit for a few years.