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GPS “Big Data” Provides Boise State Scientist with Insight on Raptor Behavior and Their Ecosystems

By Cate Gregory, San Diego Supercomputer Center Intern

Eden Ravecca's passion for nature started from a young age. She has always been interested in nature and wildlife, and has culminated this interest through seeking higher education as a first-generation American. After obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree at Colorado State University in Conservation Biology, she worked as an environmental scientist for an engineering company in Northern Colorado.

In 2020, she began the only master’s degree in raptor biology program in the world at Boise State University (BSU). This unique program allows students to learn how to conduct ecological and biological research on birds of prey and conserving their habitats. For her master’s thesis research she used GPS trackers to monitor Prairie Falcon behavior in the altered sagebrush steppe of southwest Idaho. The high resolution data from these trackers provide insights about the changes surrounding prey distributions.

“The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA) has been heavily impacted by invasive species, altered fire cycles, and climate change. We wanted to know how these changes are affecting predator and prey interactions in the NCA, which is home to the greatest concentration of nesting birds of prey in North America. Specifically, we examined how changes in plant communities and the distribution of prey affects predator foraging behavior.”

Ravecca’s research will help us better understand how predators are adapting to habitat degradation within the sagebrush steppe and help other areas navigate similar landscape changes.

“Not only is Ravecca venturing into unique research, but she is the first person in her family to pursue higher education,” said Elizabeth Leake, BSU Research Data Services Director. “Her parents relocated from Uruguay, and as a first-generation Latina college graduate and early-career scientist, a critical reason for her success has been mentorship from female professors, advisors, and other minority students”.

“Growing up I didn’t see many scientists that looked like me,” Ravecca said. “And it wasn’t just that I didn’t see Hispanic scientists, but also not a lot of women in general. It’s become a lot more common, and the conversations are happening a lot more - about more representation and diversifying science - which is really exciting to be a part of.”

Ravecca will complete her master’s degree in August 2023 and this Fall she will continue working on her project studying Prairie Falcons as she pursues a Ph.D. in the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior program at Boise State.

“My career goal is to meaningfully contribute to raptor and ecosystem conservation through integrative research that informs conservation strategies and management decisions,” she said.


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