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Prof. Oded Berger-Tal (PI)

I study the various ways in which behavioral ecology can be applied to improve the conservation and management of species and habitats.

Empirically, I am conducting behavioral research on various species and situations of conservation concern. Ideally, the motivation for the projects comes from the needs and questions of conservation practitioners in the field. In the recent past I have worked with endangered Persian fallow deer, Arabian oryx and California condors.

A second aspect of my work is developing the field of conservation behavior conceptually and making relevant behavioral data easily accessible for conservation practitioners. Without a clear understanding of the possible intersections between behavioral ecology and conservation, and even more importantly, without easy access to relevant behavioral evidence, the vast potential behavioral ecology has to improve conservation may remain untapped.     

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Dr. Krista N. Oswald (Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholar)

Throughout my research career, I have been an active participant in diverse collaborations and communities and have developed a deep understanding of the interactions between birds and their environments. I initially graduated with a BA in World History (University of Calgary) with the aim of studying environmental law. While on an overland trek from Cape Town to Nairobi, I realized my true passion was to focus more directly on environmental conservation through STEM research. As I often put it, as a child I wanted to wear the red of Star Trek command, but it turns out my heart wanted to wear the blue shirt of science. I thus returned to studies and achieved a BSc Honours in Biology (Dalhousie University). I then moved to South Africa where my MSc and PhD focused on the Cape Rockjumper, a mountain bird endemic to South Africa, as part of the Hot Birds Research Project and in collaboration with Ben SmitSusie CunninghamAlan Lee, and Shelley Edwards. With Uri Roll and Oded Berger-Tal, I will be expanding on my previous expertise and taking advantage of the new ATLAS network being built around the Negev (see our new website here), using Arabian Babblers as a focal species. Here, I will be studying habitat use, territory dynamics, and sociality alongside basic breeding ecology in an effort to quantify how birds are being affected by our changing planet, specifically increasing land-use development.

 

Personal website: https://www.kristaoswald.com/
Twitter: @krista_natasha
Instagram: @nature_with_krista

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Dr. Eleanor Diamant  (Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholar)

I have been drawn to the lives of animals since I was young. How were they managing to live their lives and how do they experience their world? These questions drew me to behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology. I am particularly interested in the interaction between human-caused environmental change and wildlife response, specifically birds in the built environment. For my post-doc, I am working with Profs. Uri Roll and Oded Berger-Tal on how the built environment is affecting species interactions and behavior between the Tristram’s starlings, hooded crows, and invasive common mynas, and how climate shapes urban ecological dynamics broadly. I will be using the ATLAS network to obtain fine-scale movement data in the Negev landscape. This work expands from single-species responses to human settlements to understanding how the built environment shapes interactions and response between species. For my PhD, I researched how populations respond to multiple stressor interactions, with an emphasis on the pattern and process of behavioral and morphological adaptation in an urbanizing songbird, the dark-eyed junco, across Southern Californian cities with Prof. Pamela Yeh at UCLA. In addition, I am passionate about transdisciplinary approaches to socio-ecology and fostering connections between the human and the more-than-human; I have worked with Prof. Rebeca Méndez and the Counterforce Lab to connect ecological thinking with artistic responses to environmental injustice and ecological crises in Southern California.

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Yael Lehnardt (PhD student, Clore fellow)

I am a birder. As such, I have spent countless hours in the field, following both birds and bird researchers, getting familiar with ecological and behavioral research. Since I was 11 years old I volunteered at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory and eventually this hobby of mine became a way of life. Birding has been a common thread in many of my decisions, habits and interests.
After graduating from high school, while working for the Society for the Protection of Nature Israel at various bird ringing stations, I spent some great years participating and leading scientific and educational projects. During this period my main scientific interest lay in studying birds' communication during migratory stopover sites.

I conducted my B.Sc. degree in Life Sciences and Environmental Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As birds' communication and movement continued to fascinate me, I got the opportunity to further research this subject at the Movement Ecology Lab of Prof. Ran Nathan.

In my PhD I plan to study the effects of anthropogenic noise on the communication and movement of migratory birds during stopover.

e-mail: yaelbird@gmail.com   

Yuval Zukerman (PhD student, Negev fellow)

I have always loved nature, but it was only ten years ago that I realized that for us to coexist with nature, we must make an effort to conserve it. Since then, I aim to be a part of these conservation efforts. For me, one of the most fascinating and important aspects of wildlife conservation is animal behavior; how is it affected by anthropogenic footprint? What are the consequences of such effects? And how can we reduce adverse outcomes? I did my B.Sc. degree at Ben-Gurion University in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences and my M.Sc. degree at Ben-Gurion University in the Department of Desert Ecology under the supervision of Oded Berger-Tal. I studied the differences in behavioral responses to potentially threatening stimuli in five populations of Nubian ibex that are differently exposed to anthropogenic disturbances.

In my Ph.D., I continue studying the behavioral implications of human-wildlife interactions inside settlements and outside in natural areas. In particular, I am investigating inter-and intra-individual variation in tolerance behavior to humans among ibex individuals that are regularly exposed to humans and test different approaches to deal with the human-ibex conflict within these areas. In natural areas, I am investigating the impact of the presence of hikers on wildlife in relation to the planning and management of hiking trails.

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Einat Zahabian (PhD student)

My love for nature started at a young age. Through the years I became a field guide and I could pass my love for education and nature to other people. While I was traveling in nature, I was always so curious about the various animals, plants, and insects and their interactions. That's why I went to the Academic world - to answer those questions about nature that I was fascinated about.

I have always loved the desert area and therefore I went to study my B.Sc. at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, at the life sciences track. My first research project in Prof. Amos Bouskila's lab was about the subspecies of the common chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon musae in the western Negev sands habitat. I looked at the differences in habitat selection between the adult and the hatchlings, in order to understand how to maintain and protect these unique chameleon habitats. My M.Sc. project with Prof. Amos Bouskila and Prof. Bertrand Boeken was about the relationship between spiny tail lizards and their environment in the arid Arava valley. My PhD research with Dr. Oded Berger Tal and Prof. David Salz in collaboration with the INPA is about water in the desert as a source for human-wildlife conflict. I study the environmental impacts of anthropogenic disturbances on wildlife diversity and behavior around natural water sources in the Negev Highlands. Water is an important limiting factor in arid areas so it is important for us to understand how to manage this resource for the benefit of both animals and humans.

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Einat Bar-Ziv (PhD student, SIDEER PhD fellow)

One of the main topics in conservation nowadays is human-wildlife conflict. In my opinion, in order to understand and find creative solutions for efficient management planning, one has to witness conflict in her own eyes. For that reason, I have devoted the last decade to studying the human-wildlife conflict in the southern parts of Africa by participating in multiple projects. From walking through ruined crop fields and watching water tanks that have been crashed by elephants, to talking with local communities about their ways of coping with intruding wildlife. From joining ex- hunters and local rangers while they are removing hunters' field traps to rehabilitation and caring for orphaned or injured wildlife - the victims of this conflict.

My main interests are animal behavior - specifically personality and social interactions, and movement ecology - especially the effects of human- wildlife conflict on movement patterns and wildlife management with an emphasis on non-lethal deterrents for expulsion of habituated animals. In my PhD project I am working on human-hyena conflict in Israel. This project, in collaborations with the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, aims to develop non-lethal methods for deterring striped hyena from human settlements. We are evaluating the interactions between anthropogenic resources and the hyenas' movement and feeding behaviors in order to establish an efficient and long-term wildlife management approach.

Malay Pandey (MSc student)

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My early experiences during school comprise a mix of natural history and field-immersion in the Western Ghats of India. In more recent years, I have engaged with scientific understanding of ecological processes. During my undergraduate, I studied the habitat selection decisions of field cockroaches in response to food, shelter (leaf litter) and predation risk (from scorpions). After graduating I got an opportunity to work on the social behavior of Free-Ranging Dogs in a peri-urban landscape. 

Currently I explore the effects of terrestrial crude-oil pollution on gerbils. In view of the `Avrona Nature Reserve case study as an example, I plan to investigate the behavioral responses and physiological consequences of oil pollution on  Allenby’s gerbils (Gerbillus andersoni allenbyi).

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Ben Breslau (MSc student)

Growing up outside Philadelphia, USA, I developed a love for nature hiking in the Pocono Mountains. I worked as a dinosaur fossil preparator in high school. As an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, I researched amphibian life history and interned at the Office of Sustainability. I also spent a semester at the Arava Institute, where I conducted gazelle ecology research that I later published. I enjoyed multiple field seasons in the western US, on projects related to trout conservation, trail work, and wolf conservation. Back in the eastern US I conducted bird monitoring and environmental education. I am excited to be here at BGU as a Masters student, researching Nubian ibex and their tolerance to human presence in developed and undeveloped areas. I look forward to contributing to the field of behavioral ecology and better informing human-wildlife management.

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Desert Rocks

Klil Shahar (MSc student)

I have been fascinated by wildlife since I was very young, and I love birds in particular. Before deciding what I wanted to study, I volunteered in the Batumi raptor count in Georgia and in bird research stations here in Israel, and became aware of many challenges related to conservation. I completed a B.Sc. in Biology at BGU and recently joined the lab as a master's student (co-supervised by Uri Roll), planning to use the ATLAS system to track the invasive Common Myna and to understand its patterns of habitat use and competition with local species.

e-mail: klilsh@post.bgu.ac.il 

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Katia Babish (MSc student)

My passion for health and disease led me to choose biology as my major, since it allows me to unravel the complexities of the world around us.

After graduating, I found immense fulfillment working in a medical lab, where I honed my skills and gained valuable hands-on experience in diagnosing and understanding various medical conditions. Now, as a BGU student, I’m delighted to be immersed in cutting-edge research that bridges biology, ecology, and the interplay between nature and health. My focus lies in investigating leishmania and the dynamics of its spread, delving into the detailed ecological interactions that influence its transmission between hosts and vectors. This captivating journey allows me to combine my enthusiasm for health sciences with a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between organisms and their environment. I’m thrilled to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, unraveling the complexities of both the medical and ecological aspects, with the hope of making a difference.

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Walk in Nature
Desert Rocks

Klil Shahar (MSc student)

I have been fascinated by wildlife since I was very young, and I love birds in particular. Before deciding what I wanted to study, I volunteered in the Batumi raptor count in Georgia and in bird research stations here in Israel, and became aware of many challenges related to conservation. I completed a B.Sc. in Biology at BGU and recently joined the lab as a master's student (co-supervised by Uri Roll), planning to use the ATLAS system to track the invasive Common Myna and to understand its patterns of habitat use and competition with local species.

e-mail: klilsh@post.bgu.ac.il 

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Linor Nachmany (MA student)

I grew up in a big city, surrounded by people who didn't have much to do with nature. Yet, I have always had a strong connection with animals, they were my safe place. As I've grown older, my connection to nature and animals has strengthened. The simple wonder and awe I feel when encountering a wild animal or immersed in nature has greatly shaped who I am.
I study the level of nature connectedness among teenagers in Israel (Co-supervised by Prof. Uri Roll and Dr. Naama Teschner from the Department of Environmental, Geoinformatic and Urban Planning Sciences). Nearly all conservation issues arise from the actions and decisions we make as humans which makes understanding this connection key to our ability to protect nature.
I have an LL.B from The Academic College of Law and Science and an M.A. in education from Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology, and the Arts. I've been an educator and a civics teacher for the past seven years.

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Tamir Rozenberg (Lab Technician)

I am working as a lab technician in charge of starting the ATLAS project, in collaboration with Dr. Uri Roll from Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology.

The ATLAS system is an advanced wildlife tracking system, that provide the ability to track and locate large number of individuals (even species smaller than 30g) at an extremely high spatial and temporal resolution. You can find more on the ATLAS ground-breaking abilities here: https://www.tau.ac.il/~stoledo/tags/.

For me, the use of technological solutions to improve research quality and to expand the research questions we can ask is fascinating. Working in the ATLAS project and in the Mitrani Department for Desert Ecology is an opportunity to combine between my curiosity about animal ecology and behavior and my love for the desert environment.

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Clean Beach

Lab's advisory board (Shaked, Bar, Eitan, and Faran)

DALL·E 2023-01-10 08.47.36 - three young birds playing with dolls in the desert with an ib

The hidden force behind all decisions made in the lab. Shaked is in charge of logistics, Bar brings the food,  Eitan is in charge of social interactions, and the newest addition, Faran, is in charge of global expansion plans. Together, they have a 3-year plan for saving the world.

Lab alumni

  • Prof. Uri Roll (Shamir Postdoctoral fellow)

Uri is now an associate professor at the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

  • Yuval Hadar (PhD student)

Yuval continues to be one of the best teachers and guides in the Negev desert

  • Dr. Nitzan Segev (PhD student)

Nitzan is now the regional ecologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority for the Arava region

  • Dr. Reut Vardi (PhD student)

The former lab chief is now a post-doc at Oxford University

  • Shahar Gofer (MSc student)

Shahar is working as an ecological consultant, saving the world one EIA at a time 

  • Dr. Ron Efrat (PhD student)

Ron is now a post-doc at Haifa University

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