Dr. David Unger
Assistant Professor of Biology
My research interests focus on carnivore ecology. These interests began with work I conducted on the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) at the Savannah River Ecology Lab in Aiken, South Carolina, in the summer of 1991. The focus of my masters work (begun in 1994) was to determine den and rendezvous site selection in a recolonizing wolf (Canis lupus nubilus) population in northern Wisconsin and east-central Minnesota. My doctoral work, begun in 2003, involved the ecology and landscape conservation of a recolonizing black bear (Ursus americanus) population in southeastern Kentucky. During my doctorate I also assisted on the projects of other graduate students, including radio tracking coyote (Canis latrans), elk (Cervus elaphus) calf capture, radio tracking adult elk, performing aerial habitat surveys for golden wing (Vermivora chrysoptera) and cerulean (Dendroica cerulea) warbler projects, and serving as a Co-Principle Investigator on a project using forward looking infrared technology to determine elk and black bear density and distribution in eastern Kentucky.
In the summer 2009 and spring/summer 2010 I worked on various aspects of the Yellowstone wolf project under the direction of Dr. Doug Smith, senior wolf biologist. In summer and winter 2010 I worked on the Colorado Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) project with Dr. Ken Logan, carnivore biologist with Colorado Division of Wildlife including kitten capture and collaring, adult trapping using hounds, and both ground and aerial radio telemetry. In the summers of 2003 and 2008 I worked with the Colorado lynx (Lynx canadensis) project under the direction of Dr. Tanya Shenk, biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. My primary goal is for these experiences to lead to collaborative opportunities and either graduate or technician positions for my undergraduate students. Other research has involved my undergraduate student’s senior projects, such as a “bioblitz” for salamander species, small mammal trapping for population and homerange analysis, seed selection in birds, bird diversity at mitigated wetlands, and carribean coral reef (off the island of Bonaire, municipality of the Netherlands) ecology of both invasive lion fish (Pterois volitans) and moray eels (Family Muraenidae).
My most recent personal research is a collaborative effort with Drs. Paul Keenlance and Joseph Jacquot of Grand Valley State University (Allendale, Michigan), Dr. Maria Spriggs of the Mesker Park Zoo (Evansville, Indiana), and Dr. Jill Witt, senior wildlife biologist with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indian Tribe (Michigan). This work is investigating the ecology of a reintroduced American marten (Martes americana) population in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Work began in 2011 and has involved capture and radio-collaring, health analysis, resting site selection, homerange, population dynamics, and small mammal trapping to determine prey base within the study area.
Looking to the future, I would like to continue my current research, but broaden this work to other local meso-predators such as recently reintroduced River Otter (Lontra canadensis) in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I also hope to initiate a project on Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans) ecology in and around the Maryville College Campus. My work using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the classroom and during my doctoral work was a challenging and exciting experience. As I work with the Maryville College’s Division of Natural Sciences to develop a new GIS lab in Sutton Science Center, I plan to increase my use of GIS to evaluate habitat utilization, population dynamics, and movement patterns of carnivores as well as other organisms.