WKU Global Reach: Professor’s Unforgettable Research on Elephant Behavior
|Author: Justin Turner|
Date: Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
While WKU’s Dr. Bruce Schulte has conducted research on a variety of animals including the North American beaver and the Florida manatee, his current international research on African elephants is positively impacting village communities in Kenya by helping to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
Schulte is a behavioral ecologist who specializes in the chemical aspects of ecology and animal behavior. He studies the use of chemical signaling as a mode of communication in animals and how this affects their behavior in a broader sense.
Schulte’s research on African elephants focuses on their behavioral patterns. He studies how chemical communication affects elephant populations and how it can be used to reduce negative interactions between human populations and elephants.
Schulte explained that elephant populations have been in conflict with human populations for years, mainly due to habitat destruction throughout their range.
“Elephants are highly migratory because they move across all of Sub-Saharan Africa, but humans have come in and created roads, railroad tracks, villages and all sorts of things that prevent elephants from going where they used to go” said Schulte. “This conflict occurs where elephants are trying to move through human habitat, but they find crops being grown and consider it a nutritious meal.”
What the elephants may consider a meal, however, is the livelihood of subsistence farmers in Kenya. Schulte’s research aims to use chemical signaling to resolve this tension.
By applying a chemical signal to which elephants react negatively, scientists can repel elephant populations away from crop fields. Elephants can quickly adapt to negative signals of one modality, such as a scent, so Schulte and other scientists are working toward developing a more comprehensive solution.
“If you use just a single modality to try to correct a problem, the animal is probably going to compensate by relying more heavily on other modalities,” Schulte said. “The idea now is to combine these different modalities into a defensive repertoire to teach them, or even have them culturally pass on, the idea that certain places are not good places to go.”
In addition to deterring elephant populations from crop fields, Schulte also hopes to redirect the animals with positive signaling in a “push-pull” fashion. Because elephants are migratory animals, this methodology may be important in helping the animals navigate their highly fragmented habitat.
Schulte is partnered with Earthwatch Institute, a citizen science organization that pairs together scientists and volunteers to perform research worldwide. This specific project on human-elephant conflict and climate smart agriculture follows up on his previous work in Tanzania and on a recent collaboration with Dr. Michael Stokes (WKU Biology), Dr. Mark Cambron (WKU Engineering) and former biology graduate student Simon Kasaine, now employed by Wildlife Works in the Tsavo National Park region of Kenya.
Schulte also led a study abroad course to South Africa this summer. The animal behavior and research courses allowed students the immersive experience of going out into the South African wild each day in safari vehicles to observe and cover the major principles of animal behavior. With the help of a tracking guide, students learned to track wildlife by identifying prints or calls. Schulte has been conducting research on elephants and rhinos in South Africa for over a decade.
Schulte continues to expand his elephant behavior research with a new project in Zambia in collaboration with African Lion & Environmental Research Trust just beginning. He is actively looking for WKU undergraduate students and prospective graduate students to become involved in this new study and his ongoing projects.
- All Categories
- March 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS October 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS March 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2012 E-Newsletter
- April 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS November 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS March 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2013 E-Newsletter
- JUNE 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS May/June 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2013 E-Newsletter
- Archived CHHS News
- CHHS October 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2015 E-Newsletter
- December 2015 ICYMI
- January 2016 ICYMI
- MAY 2016 ICYMI
- February 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS July 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2016 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS March 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2017 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2011 E-Newsletter
- All Categories
- Academic Outreach
- Continuing & Professional Development
- Online Learning
- Summer Sessions
- Winter Term
- Career & Workforce Development
- Lifelong Learning
- Society for Lifelong Learning
- WKU On Demand
- Study Away
- Faculty-Led Study Abroad
- Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning
- Cohort Programs
- Dual Credit
- Training Resources & Event Planning Services
History will be made on Nov. 29 when WKU will get its first chapter of SALUTE, a national honor society for student veterans. Seven charter members will be inducted into SALUTE at 5 p.m. in the Veterans Resource Center, 410 Tate Page Hall.
Three alumni from WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology who work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have been assigned to Puerto Rico to assist in post-hurricane recovery efforts.
The Department of Student Financial Assistance will be closed from Wednesday, Nov. 22nd through Friday, Nov. 25th. The office will reopen on Monday, Nov. 27th.
Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,