I focus on interdisciplinary tools, such as GIS and high-resolution satellite imagery, to study spatial and population dynamics of penguins, seals, & cougars - species facing substantial conservation challenges as both the physical and social environments change across the world.
In 2007 I started out as the GIS lead for the Polar Geospatial Center and eventually pursued my PhD in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota. My dissertation focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to learn about the ecology of polar animals: emperor penguins, Adélie penguins, Weddell seals, and even polar bears and muskoxen. This is a new and exciting method to learn about the population dynamics, biogeography, and effects of climate change on polar vertebrates, and I've been part of many "species from space" studies: the first global censuses of both Antarctic penguins, Weddell seal population change, and "polar bears from space". I also continue to work on cougar range expansion in North America as the executive director of the Cougar Network.
My work has been covered internationally by hundreds of media outlets including BBC, NBC Nightly News, Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic (see Speaking, News).
- Ainley DG., Cziko PA., Nur N., Rotella JJ., Eastman JT., Larue M., Stirling I. and Abrams PA. (2020) Further evidence that Antarctic toothfish are important to Weddell seals. Antarctic Science : 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s0954102020000437.
- Jenouvrier S., Holland M., Iles D., Labrousse S., Landrum L., Garnier J., Caswell H., Weimerskirch H., LaRue M. and Ji R. (2020) The Paris Agreement objectives will likely halt future declines of emperor penguins. Global Change Biology 26(3): 1170-1184. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14864.
- LaRue MA., Ainley DG., Pennycook J., Stamatiou K., Salas L., Nur N., Stammerjohn S. and Barrington L. (2020) Engaging ‘the crowd’ in remote sensing to learn about habitat affinity of the Weddell seal in Antarctica. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation 6(1): 70-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/rse2.124.
- Santora J., LaRue M. and Ainley D. (2020) Geographic structuring of Antarctic penguins. Global Ecology and Biogeography http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/geb.13144.
- Trathan PN., Wienecke B., Barbraud C., Jenouvrier S., Kooyman G., Le Bohec C., Ainley DG., Ancel A., Zitterbart DP. and Chown SL. (2020) The emperor penguin - Vulnerable to projected rates of warming and sea ice loss. Biological Conservation 241 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108216.