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Melissa Holbrook Schmitt

Melissa Holbrook Schmitt
University of Mpumalanga · School of Biology and Environmental Sciences

PhD

About

17
Publications
5,481
Reads
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241
Citations
Introduction
I am currently a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of Mpumalanga. I am a wildlife ecologist who aims to understand the drivers of large mammal foraging behavior, habitat use, and population ecology. Much of my work focuses on how large mammalian herbivores locate, assess, and obtain food resources, assess and respond to predation risk, as well as how their foraging decisions translate to population-level patterns.
Additional affiliations
February 2015 - July 2015
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Position
  • Lecturer
Description
  • ad hoc Lecturer for an upper-division Population and Community Ecology course.
January 2013 - February 2017
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Position
  • Principal Investigator
June 2011 - June 2012
University of California, Santa Cruz, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Position
  • Principal Investigator
Education
January 2013 - February 2017
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Field of study
  • Ecology
September 2008 - June 2012
University of California, Santa Cruz
Field of study
  • Ecology and Evolution

Publications

Publications (17)
Article
Full-text available
Globally, anthrax outbreaks pose a serious threat to people, livestock, and wildlife. Furthermore, environmental change can exacerbate these outbreak dynamics by altering the host–pathogen relationship. However, little is known about how the quantitative spatial dynamics of host movement and environmental change may affect the spread of Bacillus an...
Article
Full-text available
Human-elephant conflict is a persistent problem across elephant home ranges, that results in economic damage to commercial and subsistence farmers, and physical harm and death to humans and elephants. This problem is likely to intensify with increased development, dwindling of natural habitats, and climate change-driven environmental shifts. Variou...
Article
Full-text available
Megaherbivores have been of particular interest to scientists because of the physiological and ecological challenges associated with their extreme body size. Yet, one question that has seldom been explored is how browsing megaherbivores cope with plant secondary metabolites (PSMs), such as tannins, found in their food. It is possible that the sheer...
Article
The outcomes of human-elephant conflict range from expensive to fatal to both humans and elephants across Africa and Asia, which has prompted extensive efforts to mitigate it. Previous attempts have focused primarily on physical barriers , plant deterrent compounds, and elephant-nuisance species. However, the handful of effective approaches are exp...
Article
Full-text available
Despite growing recognition of the conservation value of grassy biomes, our understanding of how to restore biodiverse tropical and subtropical grassy biomes (grasslands and savannas; TGB) remains limited. Several tools have recently been identified for TGB restoration including prescribed fires, appropriate management of livestock and wild herbivo...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract The ability to assess food quality is crucial to all organisms. Fleshy fruits are a major source of nutrients to various animals, and unlike most food sources, have evolved to be attractive and to be consumed by animals to promote seed dispersal. It has recently been established that fruit scent—the bouquet of volatile chemicals emitted by...
Article
Full-text available
While feeding, mammalian browsers (primarily eat woody plants) encounter secondary metabolites such as tannins. Browsers may bind these tannins using salivary proteins, whereas mammalian grazers (primarily eat grasses that generally lack tannins) likely would not. Ruminant browsers rechew their food (ruminate) to increase the effectiveness of diges...
Article
Comparison across terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems facilitates a broader understanding of ecological patterns. Although meta-analyses are important for quantitative synthesis across ecosystems, detailed comparisons of natural history and species interactions also illuminate convergence among systems. We compare the ecology of superficially dissim...
Article
Prey anti-predator behaviours are influenced by perceived predation risk in a landscape and social information gleaned from herd mates regarding predation risk. It is well documented that high-quality social information about risk can come from heterospecific herd mates. Here, we integrate social information with the landscape of fear to quantify h...
Article
Tannins are a key chemical defense that plants use against mammalian herbivores. To cope with tannins, many herbivores have evolved salivary tannin-binding proteins that precipitate tannins in forage items, and thus minimize their deleterious effects. In the past, one specific type of salivary tannin-binding protein was identified (proline-rich pro...
Article
Keywords: diet choice foraging green leaf volatile herbivory mammal odour olfaction volatile organic compound To forage nonrandomly, animals must discriminate among food items. Foods differ in look, smell and taste, providing cues for foragers with appropriate senses. Irrespective of the sensory modality, however, foragers can only use cues effecti...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the interactions between browsers and woody vegetation across the world's savannas. Preference for specific plant species is determined by the inherent characteristics of a food item. Several features influence why browsers select specific plant species. Typically, animals select for items that have high concentrations of pr...
Article
Understanding the factors driving diet selection represents one of the main thrusts of contemporary foraging ecology. Many studies have focussed on nutritional factors and anti‐nutritional factors (such as tannins) that may describe diet selection of generalist mammalian herbivores, but these often do not explain the observed feeding patterns. Alte...
Article
Mammalian herbivores are known to be extremely selective when foraging, but little is known about the mechanisms governing the selection of patches and, at a finer scale, individual plants. Visual examination and direct sampling of the vegetation have previously been suggested, but olfactory cues have seldom been considered. We examined the use of...
Article
Full-text available
Predation risk of individuals moving in multispecies herds may be lower due to the heightened ability of the different species to detect predators (i.e., mixed-species effect). The giraffe is the tallest land mammal, maintains high vigilance levels, and has good eyesight. As a result, heterospecific herd members could reduce their predation risk if...
Article
Full-text available
For many animals, a key benefit of group living is lowered predation risk. With increasing group size, individuals commonly reduce vigilance. This group size effect can arise from both dilution of risk and increased collective detection. To determine which was more important, we compared vigilance levels of plains zebra, Equus quagga, in areas inha...

Projects

Projects (2)
Project
The main goals of this research are to 1) gain a better understanding of how common African savanna prey species can use dilution and detection to reduce their predation risk, 2) determine how this varies across a predation pressure gradient, and 3) explore the information-competition trade-off made by prey species.
Project
I am interested in olfactory signals and cues used by herbivorous mammals.