(Dis)connected in the desert: New scientific paper published

Hi everyone, just wanted to get the word out that a paper I co-wrote with Dr. Kerry Griffis-Kyle and Dr. Nancy McIntyre has been published in the ESA journal Ecosphere.  I am really excited for this paper to get published, there is a lot of good info in here.  It studies connectivity in the Sonoran Desert focusing on the mule deer and invasive bullfrog as a counterpoint. Some of my experiences and insights from the field and a lot of my Master’s thesis went into this work.

Drake, J. C., K. Griffis-Kyle, and N. E. McIntyre. 2017. Using nested connectivity models to resolve management conflicts of isolated water networks in the Sonoran Desert. Ecosphere 8(1):e01647. 10.1002/ecs2.1652


Field work studying water chemistry of some artificial and natural water sites.

Its main message is that species across a variety of taxa with experience decreasing ability to move across the Sonoran Desert into the future as climate change changes the landscape. Increases in temperature, changes in vegetation, and drastic shifts in precipitation will increase the resistance that landscape will pose to animal movement.  It will be harder for animals to travel in the desert, especially as fewer natural water locations such as seeps, springs, and rain fed waterholes dry up. The last point is crucial as these watery locations often hold a majority of biodiversity in the area and provide literal oases in the desert for local and migrating organisms.  This is a big deal for management.

If you will forgive me the following jargon filled sentences, there are some secondary information that was important to consider too. We used network analysis and least-cost path analyses, and circuit theory to study connectivity of the desert. During the analysis, we discovered that the scale in which the analyses occurred significantly impacted the results of the connectivity analyses (well duh, right? See figure below).  We developed a framework the suggests using structural analyses using network theory to identify areas inside of our full region connectivity analysis which to rerun all of the analyses over again on a more local scale, thus nesting a “local” scale analysis inside of the context of a region wide analysis.  We felt this was a good way to approach the study and an innovative look at the use of connectivity analyses.


From Drake et al 2016.

There are some surprising findings about which areas of the Sonoran Desert in the United States will provide refuge in the future too.  But you’ll just have to read it to find that out.  Check it out here (it’s open access so anyone can read it): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecs2.1652/full

Thanks for checking it out!