Submitted by AskScienceModerator t3_118wdoz in askscience

Hi! My name is Dr. Christine Wilkinson, and I'm a National Geographic Explorer and an expert in human-wildlife interactions, conservation science, and carnivore ecology. I am a member of the IUCN SSC Hyaena Specialist Group and specialize in spotted hyenas and coyotes- in particular, determining how they move through human-altered landscapes and what drives their interactions with people. For my research, I use tools such as motion sense cameras, GPS collars, remote sensing, and community participatory mapping. I also do quite a bit of science communication and music performance. I've served as a scientific expert (on and off screen) for several past and upcoming productions and recently began a TikTok series called Queer is Natural. I am also a co-founder of Black Mammalogists Week, and in my "spare time" I perform, learn, and teach with San Francisco Taiko Dojo. It's one of my missions in life to recognize scientists as kaleidoscopic beings whose diverse experiences and perspectives can improve science and wildlife conservation! Read more about me on and follow me on twitter (@ScrapNaturalist), tiktok (@TheScrappyNaturalist), and instagram (@christine_eleanor).

I'll be on at 1130 am PT (2:30 PM ET, 19:30 UT), AMA!


Username: /u/nationalgeographic



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DeathStarVet t1_j9jhkpk wrote

How do you become a National Geographic Explorer?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l1sck wrote

Great question! I'll get started early with this one :).

People usually become a National Geographic Explorer through either 1) applying for and receiving funding (for research, storytelling, media creation, conservation, etc.) from National Geographic Society, or 2) being selected for an award (such as the Wayfinder Award) by National Geographic Society. After that, you're an Explorer for life!


ApprehensivePrint465 t1_j9jotrr wrote

What happens when hyenas chew your tires during research?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l3qsb wrote

Fortunately the young ones are the ones most likely to do it, so they haven't yet managed to break through and give me flat tires. If it was an adult, that would be a different story. When I feel like they're getting a bit too comfortable chewing, I periodically shoo them off - which can be a bit tricky since I don't want to actually scare them away as I'm observing them. If I ever do get a flat tire while sitting at a den, I'm not entirely sure what I'll do ;).


Antikickback_Paul t1_j9jvvwy wrote

SciComm from a molecular biology perspective has been... tricky. Ecology and zoology has the benefit of incredible imagery to capture an audience-- predators chasing down prey, elaborate mating rituals, exploring animals like coyotes that people can literally see in their back yards. It's hard to make poking-and-zapping-cells-in-a-dish-please-believe-me-its-real-i-swear captivating, relatable, and accessible. I've always felt it challenging on my team's science news show. Do you work with or have thoughts you can share on this type of communication, where you're faced with difficulties in captivating an audience or with a topic that isn't so intuitive and therefore tough to explain to a lay-ish audience? Thanks!!


nationalgeographic t1_j9leg2j wrote

Oooh I love this question, what a tough one. I think one of my favorite tools to use is incorporating an analogy or some sort of "social math" into science communication. For social math, for example, when we talk about fence ecology we could say something like "the length of fences wrapped around the earth could likely reach the sun". That loops people into the scientific material through a topic/distance/measurement that they can understand and relate to.

I think that Seeker ( also does a great job at communicating all of that great micro-science stuff - though they use a lot of fancy animations and camera work which might not be logistically feasible.

The advice, in short, is to connect your science back to the average person. Why might it matter to them? What aspect of a person's daily life does the science connect to? It's a good series of questions to ask yourself when seeking funding too - I think my explorations with SciComm have improved my grant writing ability to a great extent.


VampiricDemon t1_j9jf6q0 wrote

Sometimes Hyena's are shown being kept as a pet. Are they suitable for domestication at all?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l36pv wrote

Thanks for asking this question. It's totally normal for us to want to connect with animals- especially as many cultures have increasingly disconnected ourselves from nature.

However, I am highly against having a hyena (or any other wild animal) as a pet -- spotted hyenas in particular are apex predators and their evolutionary drive to do what they do can't be domesticated (definitely not in one animal, and likely not over generations either). Brown hyenas, striped hyenas, and spotties are all bone-crushing/bone-cracking hyenas, with very strong jaws capable of quite a bit of damage. And of course, having a hyena as a pet wouldn't be very kind to them since it would prevent them from living out their natural lives, and they likely wouldn't get everything that they have evolved to need. Spotted hyenas, for example, are highly social and intelligent animals that live in groups called "clans", which they would not have access to as a pet. Etc.


eye_spi t1_j9jra96 wrote

Coyotes are pretty common in my city. What is the real level of risk having them roam my neighborhood, and his can we be good neighbors to them?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l5mzn wrote

The coyotes are unlikely to pose a risk to you (humans). Depending on their boldness level (there's evidence that shows more boldness is usually influenced by unintentional or intentional human feeding of coyotes), they could pose a threat to, say, a small off-leash dog. The best thing you can do is make sure all of your trash/compost/other attractants are secured, keep dogs on leash (and cats indoors), and make sure to haze any coyotes that are coming too near. Hazing in this case would be making yourself big and loud, waving your arms, shaking a can of coins, yelling "Go away coyote!" etc., until the coyote completely leaves the area. Doing so consistently (and making sure your neighbors also know to do so) will help coyotes to maintain their natural wariness of people and not get into trouble.


borg2 t1_j9jt089 wrote

I've seen two videos where coyotes play with badgers and I've read that they might have a symbiotic relationship. Badger digs out a burrow and the coyote kills what's in it. Is this a common thing? Is it observed often? How would such a symbiotic relationship commence?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l91fm wrote

This is one of my fave symbiotic relationships out there! It has even appeared in Indigenous lore, so it is definitely not a new relationship, either.

This relationship likely came to be simply because the two species have complementary hunting methods -- the badger can scare up squirrels through its underground work, which benefits the coyote; and the opposite - a coyote could scare a squirrel underground, which benefits the badger. Thus in some circumstances and with certain prey species (i.e., ground squirrels) they can be more successful as a hunting unit. This has been studied scientifically at least as far back as the 1980s, so I don't think it's particularly uncommon.


Tac_Bac t1_j9jq45u wrote

What are your thoughts on population management for mesopredators moving into sensitive habitats because of human expansion/influence? Also, management for them impacting the growing list of endangered and imperiled species in our world? A good example would be the coyote expanding basically from one coast to another of the US, impacting listed birds, mammals, and herps. Traditionally, we had mesopredators in these areas, like wolves, which we have since expatriated. However, species population and density were higher, so our now imperiled species could take the predation hit (not so much anymore).


nationalgeographic t1_j9lfl4v wrote

This is a fantastic and very complicated/nuanced question. You've touched on the fact that conservation, in the end, is a value judgement - based in what people want to prioritize. As far as coyotes, I think we still have a ways to go as far as assessing whether they are negatively impacting listed species in their new eastern ranges (as compared to the impacts of other non-native species like outdoor domestic cats). The other challenge with an animal like the coyote is that the slim evidence we have shows that lethal control (if a wildlife manager was into trying that) wouldn't work, and their populations would quickly rebound. Thus, I imagine this will have to be a very context-specific answer, where we create solutions on an individual-species basis for our endangered and threatened species, while simultaneously increasing our empirical understanding of whether and how expanding mesocarnivore populations are impacting species of interest. Not a satisfying or clear cut answer, I'm afraid, but nothing in conservation ever is!


random_curiosity t1_j9k0x7w wrote

I'm in a rural area. Coyotes lope down the fenceline just outside of where my dogs are barking. Are they really taunting my dogs, or do they just really understand the purpose of the fence?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l52mf wrote

Not sure what your exact set up is, but they're very likely checking out the fence while also simultaneously being curious about your dogs. There have been cases of coyotes playing with or attempting to play with dogs. If your dogs are small and free-roaming the yard, the coyotes could also (I'm sorry to say) be interested in whether they could be snacks. But if they're bigger dogs, it's more likely to be simple curiosity. Also, if your fence is new, the yotes might be scoping it out to see what exactly it is.


eriberry13 t1_j9k8225 wrote

What are a few ways to deter coyotes from preying on backyard pets and other domesticated animals (like chickens)?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lco0y wrote

Make sure the chickens are in a robust, fully enclosed enclosure (i.e., a big chicken run with a roof). For protecting dogs and other animals that are in the yard, if you can't keep an eye on them the whole time, try to install a tall fence with coyote rollers (i.e., on the top.


Curious-Accident9189 t1_j9ke8ye wrote

I have yard chickens with unclipped wings and pigs in an enclosure. I live in a remote rural area with a significant coyote and black bear population, yet I've not had problems with either one in 2 years. I have 4 dogs of varying size and I often hike the nearby woods and walk my property line.

It's cuz I pee outside isn't it?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lmwdd wrote

Might be because the coyotes just have plenty to eat and places to roam elsewhere, so no need to take the risk of coming near! I would be keen to do an empirical study on the effects of human urine, though.


vvhynaut t1_j9jy1wz wrote

Any advice for someone who wants to work in wildlife conservation and monitoring? I'm 34 and already had my first career for almost a decade. Now I'm trying to follow my dream but I feel really behind.


nationalgeographic t1_j9l6v6s wrote

Don't worry- you are not behind in any way!!

I highly recommend reaching out to the people who you admire and/or who have careers similar to what you would like to be in, and asking them questions/having informational interviews with them. Meanwhile, there are a good number of entry-level paid internships and paid seasonal positions in wildlife management/monitoring if you have the ability to tap into those. I recommend visiting the Texas A&M Job Board ( for a comprehensive list of most opportunities. This is largely for US-based positions though, and I'm not sure where you're located.

Also, if research interests you, look into graduate programs in wildlife-related topics - there are often scholarships or teaching assistantships available to help get you through grad school.


nationalgeographic t1_j9lp4co wrote

Hi everyone! I had an amazing time answering your questions for the past few hours, but it's time for me to bounce. Please feel free to reach out via social media/email/website/etc. to chat more (see the original post for how to find me). Thanks again for stopping by!

~ Christine


Pacmanic88 t1_j9k8uh2 wrote

What's one of the more interesting things you've learned from tracking coyote movements?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l7biz wrote

So far, one of the most interesting things that we're seeing with some coyotes we're studying in Los Angeles is that their movements can be predicted not just by ecological factors (like vegetation, habitat, and water availability), but also by sociocultural and public health-related factors, like pollution and median income. But some of them are doing some counterintuitive things (like moving toward more polluted areas, rather than away from those areas). We have a lot of hypotheses about this, such as 1) perhaps there is more trash to access in these areas, 2) perhaps there are more rodents to eat in these areas, and 3) perhaps prey animals in these polluted areas are sicker and weaker and easier to hunt. Stay tuned!


softserveshittaco t1_j9kfg1w wrote

Your resume is diverse. Pretty good chance that when you were in school, you were drawn in several different directions.

How did you decide what to specialize in?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lakab wrote

Honestly, I almost ended up at NYU studying screenwriting and symphony orchestra (I'm a cellist). I also wanted to work with wildlife since I was quite young, but was a bit torn. What pushed me over into wildlife completely was that I was offered a biology field research opportunity for underrepresented students, that would begin prior to my freshman year in college (at Cornell).

As far as how I decided what to specialize in- I was drawn to wildlife work since I was very very very young- I grew up in Queens, NY and as a child I chased cicadas, pigeons, cockroaches, and squirrels around, imagining I had my own nature show. When I got to undergrad (major: Natural Resources with focus in Applied Ecology), I followed every wildlife-related opportunity that I could, and ended up doing my senior thesis on herring gulls on an island off the coast of Maine. On the side, I kept up my interest in music/arts/creative stuff through taiko drumming, guitar/singing performance, etc., and did fencing- so in other words I tried to keep my options open and follow my interests in as many directions as possible.

For my carnivore research, again it was all about networking and following opportunities related to my interests. I kept in touch with professors that were working on projects that I was interested in, and worked for them after college, etc. In general, though, the common thread is that I've always worked on misunderstood animals, I've always wanted to work with wildlife, and I've always been interested in science communication and other creative endeavors --- it's just that the path has never been predictable.


caped_crusader8 t1_j9jp9kp wrote

How do animals cope with urbanisation?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lj50q wrote

Great question, and as with anything related to wildlife and conservation- nuanced answer..! Mainly, the answer is "it depends". It depends on the species' adaptive capacity and behavioral flexibility, their diet needs, and their space/habitat needs, as well as human-determined factors such as green space availability and habitat, attitudes and actions toward certain species, etc. Behaviorally flexible species such as coyotes, raccoons, and spotted hyenas (to name a few) can survive in urban and peri-urban areas because of their flexibility not just of behavior but of diet. A great article just came out in The Atlantic talk about diet flexibility in relation to anthropogenic food sources:

That being said, as you can imagine cities are not amenable to every species. And just because some animals are able to make it work in an urbanized area doesn't necessarily mean that they're thriving. For instance many scientists are asking questions about the stress hormones and disease susceptibility of urban wildlife (within cities and across different cities), to try and understand exactly what they're experiencing and how they're coping.


TVotte t1_j9jhotj wrote

What's your best all alone out in the middle of nowhere story


Caspid t1_j9k51p3 wrote

Have you gone on one of those National Geographic cruises and do you recommend them?


IcarusWax t1_j9jijrf wrote

If remote sensing is so far unable to detect a thylacine, do you think there is a possibility they are in fact, extinct?...


nationalgeographic t1_j9l9iga wrote

There's always a possibility- and evidence certainly strongly points in that direction. But, as a scientist, I can't say that I or anyone else truly knows conclusively!


Arrow_Maestro t1_j9jyjy6 wrote

Do you think global ecological collapse is likely in the next decade?


___Teacher t1_j9l7ck2 wrote

Which wild animals let humans be part of their community? A list would be nc.

I have seen a documentary about a guy who became part of a wild hyena pack by a lot of effort.

Also how many years for humans to learn the body language of animals?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lkm8h wrote

I haven't heard of nor can I endorse incorporating oneself into a hyena clan, but I do think that there's evidence social animals (particularly social mammals) are more amenable to forming some type of connection with humans. We, also as social mammals, have brains that work similarly to other social mammals- could be a factor.

As far as body language- some researchers study this for entire careers depending on the study species. I mean, take a look at what Dr. Tom Seeley did with decoding honeybee body language and social behavior- absolutely amazing!


AllanfromWales1 t1_j9jfm4o wrote

Interested in your take on the extreme vegans who want to see all carnivorous / omnivorous animals genetically modified to become herbivores to prevent animal cruelty.


nationalgeographic t1_j9l4gj1 wrote

I'm a bit of a purist, I think. I trust (?) evolution, in some sense, and don't think that we should be meddling with it on a broad scale. If we're really giving such thoughts the time of day...history has shown time and again that humans can't possibly understand all of the complex and nuanced ecological connections on our planet. Not-fully-informed meddling with ecologies- such as non-native species management - has already done quite a bit of harm. Furthermore, without carnivores, there are many obvious ways that our ecosystems would be completely thrown out of balance (i.e., imagine what happens when the planet is overrun by herbivores who are eating all of the vegetation).


ManyIdeasNoProgress t1_j9kqt0p wrote

You must have sampled a lot of different cuisine in your travels, what's your favorite pastry?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l82kf wrote

  1. mandazi (a squarish donut-like thing that's common in East Africa)

  2. chapati (an addictive flatbread omg it's so good...does it count as a pastry?)

  3. spanakopita

  4. literally any chocolate cake


dbcooper_1 t1_j9kquus wrote

Have any tips for someone applying for a Nat Geo Level 1 grant for the first time?


nationalgeographic t1_j9li25c wrote

Yes indeed! I have served as a reviewer for the Nat Geo Level 1s twice now.

  1. Make sure that the project focus that you are applying for is accurate. For instance, don't put your project under "conservation" unless you are planning to measure and evaluate specific conservation metrics as part of your project. In other words, a lot of projects span both research and conservation, but if we aren't measuring impact, then those are under the "research" focus.

  2. Make sure that you do your due diligence about the need and broader impacts of the project. NatGeo likes to fund projects that will make a meaningful impact of some kind.

  3. Make sure you are meaningfully involving local scientists/communities in the work that you are doing. It's easy to tell when someone isn't doing this at all, or is being surface-level about it.


harrietlegs t1_j9kz9jt wrote

I’ve read that Coyotes diets account for more than 60% of house pets.. Do you believe this is a growing issue as Coyotes start to wander farther and farther?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lc5lt wrote

I would be super curious to see that study! Some friends and colleagues have done diet studies on coyotes, and found the number to be quite a bit less than that. Even in NYC, our densest city in the USA, the coyote population mainly eats wild prey (i.e., rodents and other small mammals, bugs, plants, etc.) just like their rural & suburban counterparts.

Regardless, keeping cats indoors and dogs on leash will pretty much prevent anything from happening to them. Outdoor cats are a major killer of wild birds, so yet another reason to keep our kitties indoors.


Igor_Kozyrev t1_j9lfovy wrote

In my country there are people advocating for complete ban on hunting. Would that be a good idea? The climate here and situation with wildlife, I'd say, is similar to Canada.


nationalgeographic t1_j9lmase wrote

Hard to say-- here in the USA, for instance, a lot of our conservation & conservation research funding comes from the hunting permits and hunter groups. Depending on the context, hunters can be a really good contingent for sustainable wildlife management- because it's in their best interest to keep wildlife around. (I'm saying all of this as a vegetarian/pescatarian, by the way). It also depends on who is making the decision - are there people who rely on hunting for sustenance or to help their families get by? How are they being involved? A great example of what *not* to do is in all of the dialogue right now about trophy hunting in Africa- a very polarized issue, but most of the anti-trophy hunting folks are actually not Africans at all and are from the Global North. They should not have any decision making power over what goes on elsewhere.

In short, to answer your Q such a decision would need to be very deeply community-involved and science-informed.


fatguyfromqueens t1_j9jj6k1 wrote

Well since cats are carnivores, is it cruel to have a cat chase a laser pen mousey when they can never actually catch the mouse?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l7p17 wrote

Love this question! For our domesticated kitties, it's really stimulating for them to be able to follow that drive they have for chasing (and animals have been known to chase for fun in the wild as well). It's a great way to give a cat what it needs without having it go outdoors and chase/eat wild birds.


luist49 t1_j9jqnyp wrote

What is the strongest four legged animal?


nationalgeographic t1_j9ljtk7 wrote

Ooooh I have no idea. But I imagine you would have to define what you mean by "strength" first. Are we talking bite force? Pulling/dragging ability? Straight up muscle mass?

The most intimidatingly muscular animal that I frequently come into contact with is the cape buffalo. Seen death closing in a few too many times with those guys nearby.


AkisFatHusband t1_j9jte4f wrote

Are zoos human-altered?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lav1d wrote

They're completely human-designed! So yes :). I have not done any research at zoos, though- but there's a whole field of people who do important work on captive animals, their behaviors, and their welfare.

(Side note that people have very polarized views on zoos, but I personally think that zoos which are accredited by the American Zoological Association [AZA] have done a LOT for conservation efforts).


QuakerZen t1_j9jvocr wrote

Does global warming and the resulting impact on vegetation push typically omnivorous animals into more of a meat based diet? Have we seen any animals shift the core of their diet? Has the opposite been observed where vegetation has taken the bulk of an animals diet?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lnj9y wrote

I don't know of any studies that have seen this sort of shift, though omnivory in Carnivora is quite common. Typically, omnivorous animals will alter their diets depending on availability of different types of items, as you've said (i.e., coyotes in wine country eating a lot of grapes), but I don't think veg loss has been dramatic enough for that to show a strong, lasting/scalable signature of any kind yet. Remains to be seen what will happen as animal ranges continue to shift.


good_testing_bad t1_j9kc60r wrote

What animal outside dogs and cats do you think make the best pet


nationalgeographic t1_j9l7uid wrote

I've had a New Caledonian crested gecko for 15 years (her name is Petrie) and she extremely really low maintenance and a ton of fun. I swear she has a sense of humor. Highly recommend.


missfudge t1_j9khsxz wrote

What music do you play? And how the heck do you find time for everything you do?? You basically have my dream job, perhaps one day..


nationalgeographic t1_j9lbd12 wrote

I am a taiko drummer, guitarist (not the best but I get the job done!), singer, and cellist. I'm flexible as far as genres, but I really like singing jazz and bluegrass!

As far as how I get it done, I don't really sleep, honestly, I have some insomnia- which gives me more hours in the day but I don't recommend it, haha. I'm getting a bit better at the work-life balance, but I feel personally connected to and passionate about a lot of my work, so it is a bit difficult. I've always been a very energetic person?

Don't be afraid to reach out to people (even cold-emailing them) who have positions/careers/etc. that you want to get into- you never know what gems of advice they might impart to you, or opportunities you might come across.


RecklessRonaldo t1_j9ks9po wrote

How do you make time for everything? I feel like just being an ecologist or science communicator or tiktokker is a full time job in their own!?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lmq4o wrote

I'm running out of time but I answered this in a different user's question! Feel free to reach out to me via social media if you have any follow-ups.


sconeprincess t1_j9k4syf wrote

This is a highly hypothetical question because of a book I'm trying to write.. If a world was to be populated with animals for farming purposes and left mostly alone for 50 years between harvesting the stock would the planet also need to have predators as well? To be clear the animals need about 50 years to mature enough for the first generation to be grown to full size. If there were no predators and these were all plant/grass feeders, what is the minimum number of"helper" species would you need to introduce ie: pollinators? Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. Cathy


CassandraVindicated t1_j9kckvu wrote

I had a coyote as a pet for about 14 years. I never had a problem with vets treating them. She was one of the best 'dogs' I ever had. What's your opinion on that, and was there anything I should have absolutely paid attention to in recognition of the difference between them and dogs?


Angry_argie t1_j9knbog wrote

Are there another examples or plans to fix an ecosystem similar to the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone?


eIectioneering t1_j9kq2m0 wrote

Currently finishing my undergrad and headed into a gap year - I recently jokingly said that my absolute dream job is to be a scientist so passionate and prolific in my field (and communication) that I can become a ‘TV scientist’.

My main interests are biodiversity and wildlife ecology; how did you enter into the field of wide-scale scientific communication? Additionally, do you find that passion for wildlife and communication is almost ‘exploited’ in the industry? (Thinking interpretation jobs, I’ve loved every one I’ve had but to be offered minimum wage for jobs requiring a degree is really disheartening!)


nationalgeographic t1_j9lhg1g wrote

These are great Qs! And quite frankly, I am still in the doorway (really just a toe over the threshold maybe) of the entrance to wide-scale scientific communication. We'll see what happens. But I've basically been just putting myself out there as much as possible, and talking about the science that I'm passionate about in as many formats as possible (social media, speaking gigs, productions). Over time, people start to recognize that you're good at what you do (well, I try to be, anyway - at least I'm enthusiastic??), and they start knocking on your door more. I don't really know what other concrete advice to give except to not be afraid to cold-email people and put yourself out there as much as possible toward the goal that you have. The worst people can say is "no".

I do agree that we have a problem with scientists and science communicators being paid very poorly or not paid at all. We need to draw our boundaries. I try really hard not to accept any unpaid speaking gigs unless 1) I know the person, 2) the speaking gig will be serving underrepresented groups and/or for another good cause. I'll do those for free no problem. Hopefully we can move the needle by drawing these types of boundaries.


baileybat711 t1_j9kspcb wrote

Science communicator here with a specialty in illustration and design. I'm currently collaborating with a carnivore ecologist on a lab logo/brand! :]

Do you have any insights on bridging SciComm with creative fields? Also, do you ever encounter times in your own research where visuals would enhance the conversation?


nationalgeographic t1_j9l8idk wrote

Oh hey- I'm in the market for a logo for our Hyenas and Communities project! ....!!

I feel like SciComm is ALL about being visual, as well as of course making the story accessible to your particular audience. I do a lot of social media work, and finding and curating the right visuals is often the most difficult part. I've contracted with a science illustrator on a few different projects recently to enhance the visuals in my scientific publications as well (making a good graphical abstract is becoming increasingly important). I can go on and on, but the short answer is yes yes yes visuals are a huge need/component in SciComm!


slomobileAdmin t1_j9ky8qg wrote

Are there any consistent animal behaviors in a surprise encounter when a human:

Openly displays genuine fear

Attempts to conceal fear

Is genuinely unafraid

Is genuinely unafraid but fakes the appearance of fear


Kali_Drummer t1_j9kzzjl wrote

Hello, Dr. Wilkinson. Can you link us to a favorite Taiko performance? I would love to hear something that is complex and active. Thank you.


nationalgeographic t1_j9ldhcg wrote

I'm not sure if I have a favorite (and taiko is SO much better in person than over video, IMHO!), but here's a fun performance from the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival last year (start at ~20:30 if you want to skip the kiddos and beginner groups):


Adrian_Shoey t1_j9l2phj wrote

Do you think there'll ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark?


No-Television-7862 t1_j9l71gx wrote

We have a band, or pack, of coyotes in our area. They seem to move from area to area. We hear them close-by about once or twice per month. That may be evidence of the size of their territory. We live in remote agricultural North Carolina. The local brand of "hazing" is usually poorly-aimed small arms fire, and it seems effective. Since we have chickens, dogs, barn cats and horses, how do you recommend we take our homestead off of their menu? I certainly don't want to harm them, I believe all species are important to our ecosystem. I just don't want my chickens to become part of their ecosystem. :)


nationalgeographic t1_j9lmjpi wrote

I recommend getting your chickens a fully enclosed chicken run (with a roof, etc.). Your horses should be all set. Your barn cats and doggos (depending on size) might be at risk, but as long as you are continuing to haze, the coyotes probably will not want to take that risk to come near your property. If things get dire, make sure you have a nice tall fence with coyote rollers on the top.


Cat-astro-phe t1_j9le7bg wrote

I feel like we are seeing a substantial amount of animals participating in behaviors that humans don't expect from them. Do you feel the same and do you feel that there is an evolutionary aspect to this, or do you think they have been participating in the activities all along and we just see so much more now because of the prolifration of videography and photography and the internet.


nationalgeographic t1_j9ll70j wrote

I'm willing to bet that social media has a lot to do with what we're seeing, and that most of these behaviors are not new. That being said, human changes to the environment (even subtle changes) can create new situations that animals have to adapt to or may behave differently around.

On a more philosophical note, scientists/people in general often try to put things into neat boxes, and nature doesn't operate like that! Folks might think behaviors are new just because scientists of the past have not written about them due to the behaviors not fitting into our neat boxes. A great example: all of the homosexual and gender-bending behaviors in the animal kingdom that have been poorly studied or largely just ignored or written off as flukes.


queenxenabean t1_j9li82k wrote

Have you heard of NatGeos involvement with the Into The Okavango project? Thoughts?

Also, so cool to have you here. I studied conservation ecology and masters in environmental law. Dream was to study big cats one day but it hasn't become a reality yet, although I've been part of the release of two rehabilitated cheetahs! (More just a friendly bystander)


IRMacGuyver t1_j9ll889 wrote

Was the depiction of hyenas in the novel Jurassic Park The Lost World accurate?


nationalgeographic t1_j9los8s wrote

ooooh 1) I LOVE JURASSIC PARK. I'm literally wearing a Jurassic Park shirt right now.

  1. The last time I read that book was over a decade ago, but as I recall there was a big hunting scene? In that sense, yes spotted hyenas can and do hunt in groups (they can also hunt in pairs or solo), so that part was accurate. I think in the book they mentioned that the cubs ate first, or something, but that wouldn't be entirely accurate if we're talking spotted hyenas. Spotted hyenas have intricate social structures, which means that a cub could be ranked higher or lower than any given adult. So if you have the cub of an adult that is ranked lower than, say, the top female, then that cub is definitely not getting first dibs on the carcass. Rank order is critical for spotties, and you can usually determine their respective ranks by looking at how they behave toward each other.

adam_demamps_wingman t1_j9lla54 wrote

There are so many extinct carnivores in the US. Is there any chance of recreating the California Golden Bear and other species? Is there one extinct species that is most promising?


CommunicationOld7236 t1_j9lmac6 wrote

What are some of your most memorable wildlife encounters? And What are the closest relatives to hyenas that are alive today ?


Arnoxthe1 t1_j9lmf3z wrote

What are some disciplines that National Geographic Society really needs people in and wants to fund badly?


nationalgeographic t1_j9lo7un wrote

Currently they're accepting applications for a HUGE grant in Animal Behavior and Cognition.

Also, in my opinion NGS really loves 1) meaningful conservation work, 2) storytelling that incorporates a new perspective or way of creating stories, and 3) interesting new pioneering tech related to conservation/the environment.


Bees_Bee_Neet t1_j9lmyhe wrote

If you are still taking questions, something I have been dying to know that seems to lie perfectly with your line of work is why spotted hyenas seem to be doing so much better conservation-wise than other top-order carnivorans in Africa. Namely lions, leopards, and painted dogs, especially when, at least to someone with less knowledge, it seems they'd be more vulnerable if anything. All four experience threats from habitat destruction, human persecution, and a declining prey base. While spotted hyenas also seem to deal with having the worst reputation of the four, poisoned carrion, and two years of producing some of the most nutrient-dense milk of any carnivoran before their babies are weaned. Yet the two pantherines are considered vulnerable, the canid endangered, and spotted hyenas are decreasing but of least concern. Beyond that, a 2018 study showed a spotted hyena population in the Serengeti took 16 years to recover to pre-epidemic numbers compared to the three required by lions in the same area. Despite the hyenas seeming to face a 16% decrease as opposed to the 30% experienced by those lions. Slow recovery from a disease epidemic in the spotted hyena, a keystone social carnivore
What makes spotted hyenas so special, what is setting them apart? Decreased competition? All those other predators are facing decreased competition, so what sets the hyenas apart? Is it their large range? Then why do spotted hyenas specifically have such a large range? And regardless of what this advantage is how effective may it be in the future with increasing anthropogenic pressures? Is it possible this could save these keystone species in some way?

I'm missing something here and probably making myself look silly for it, but I would greatly appreciate some clarification on my Crocuta crocuta conservation confusion.


nationalgeographic t1_j9lpmj8 wrote

GREAT question - and I just posted saying I would stop answering Qs, but just to start tapping into this one: spotted hyenas are generalists and super behaviorally flexible as compared to the big cats. For instance, they've been known to even eat insects and caterpillars, as well as of course refuse, despite their role as apex predators. Essentially, they can make it work. That being said, we at the IUCN SSG Hyaena Specialist Group are currently finalizing the new range maps and trying to revise the population estimates and population vulnerability of the four hyena species, including spotties. Spotties are also declining across their range, despite being so successful and behaviorally flexible. Please feel free to contact me (see the original post) to talk further about this!


snarcasm68 t1_j9lt2sp wrote

When filming wildlife, how do you keep track of the one animal you are filming? I read how you usually track animals, but I can’t even keep up with the foxes around my house with my motion sensing cameras. A lot look just a like.


gangkom t1_j9m4glh wrote

Individually, which one is stronger? Hyena or lion?


iSoinic t1_j9m4uqn wrote

I might be too late, but maybe some others can also jump in:

What ways do you see/ would you prefer, that activists implement to connect the scientific community of your field with people of the civil society, interested in the matter?

E.g. where could y'all need more communication platform, public interest, financial aid, volunteering?

And how could activists help building the structures on a grass-root, as well as global scale? Maybe those structures already exist somewhere and you know about them and want to see them multiplied, or maybe you have your own ideas about it. :)


SailsTacks t1_j9mlnp5 wrote

I’m curious how you arrived at coyotes and hyenas as your specialty, being that coyotes are canines and hyenas are more closely related to felines. Was it your interest in their pack behavior, and how they’re alike and not alike? Thanks!


viber_in_training t1_j9muxyr wrote

I saw a taiko performance last year and it was so awesome and great energy. "Ganbatte! ganbatte!" was a fun song; not sure if that was one of their's or a common song.

Since you mentioned getting into SciComm, I have a couple questions. My passion lies in science, and I've been chewing on ideas of getting into SciComm for a while, from making youtube content to mixing music performance with science-based experiments and visualizations. I know that realistically, you simply just need to start somewhere if you're passionate about it, and the rest will eventually follow.

But my questions are these: what does a "career" look like as you get into SciComm? How does it turn into a source of income that can support you? What kind of organizations or people should you look to get involved with to get somewhere with it?


Chris_in_Lijiang t1_j9n1vsq wrote

What are the cheapest motion sense cameras on the market that you would recommend?


night_chaser_ t1_j9ni1vb wrote

Has it become more apparent that urban wildlife is becoming more adaptive and evolving to better suit an ever-changing landscape?


dhtdhy t1_j9nmxci wrote

You say you're a carnivore. What's your favorite meat?


Flareshu t1_j9nnh09 wrote

This is a long shot. But one day i am hopping to work in Africa with big cats reguarding to conservation and research. Do you know any options i could apply to (just want to get my foot in the door).

I am currently studying wildlife science in Australia and am stuck on where to go.

P.s. Thank you for doung this AMA!!


TheLatchkey_kid t1_j9nyfb3 wrote

I learned that coyotes kill cats, often. I found this a little surprising given how quick and alert cats seem to be.

Is there something in particular that gives them advantages over cats?


CheatsySnoops t1_j9o6s6h wrote

Why do ferrets die if they don’t breed? Do their wild relatives have the same problem or is it strictly a domestic thing?


Chris_in_Lijiang t1_j9n2hy1 wrote

How many other species use cringey, fabricated phrases such as "Great question!", "Thanks for asking this question" and "Oooh I love this question, what a tough one?" when interacting with each other?