I am broadly interested in grassland ecosystems and how, as a keystone species, prairie dogs are an integral part of the ecosystem. An additional area of interest is conservation photography and science communication, bridging the gap between science and the public through visual media such as photos and videos. Working with both Michael Forsberg/Platte Basin Timelapse and Dr. John Benson, allows me to combine both of my interests and work on a multidimensional project at UNL. My research project studies the coyote and badger hunting relationship in prairie dog and ground squirrel colonies in grasslands across the west. These two species sometimes hunt prairie dogs and ground squirrels together using their complementary hunting skills. Specifically, the badger digs up burrowing animals, while the coyote captures prey that flushes above ground and surveys the surrounding area. Through my project, I plan to contribute new scientific and behavioral insights about this intriguing relationship while also communicating the story to a diverse audience through high-quality photos and video in engaging and educational media presentations.
BS: Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Photography website: https://www.emmabalunek.com/