Skip to main content
Skip to main content

WKU News

WKU Global Reach: Professor’s Unforgettable Research on Elephant Behavior

WKU Global Reach: Professor’s Unforgettable Research on Elephant Behavior

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.

Categories
All News  Now Viewing Category: All
Media Relations
President Caboni News
CEBS
CHHS News
Gordon Ford College of Business
Ogden News
PCAL
Academic Affairs
WKU Regional Campuses
Glasgow News
Etown & Fort Knox
Owensboro News
Transportation
The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky
The Center for Gifted Studies
Police
Emergency Preparedness
Facilities
Housing & Residence Life
Student Activities and Organizations
Augenstein Alumni Center
Campus Activities Board
The Confucius Institute
Cultural Enhancement Series
DELO News
Department of Music
Department of Theatre & Dance
Development and Alumni Relations
Downing Museum
Downing Student Union
Hardin Planetarium
Health Services
Human Resources News
Instruments of American Excellence
International Student Office
Kinesiology, Recreation & Sport
Library News
Math News
Office of International Programs
Office of Research
Office of Sustainability
Parent's Association
School of Journalism & Broadcasting
Student Financial Assistance
Scholarships Student Financial Assistance
Student Employment
Student Government Association News
Student Research Council
Study Abroad
Van Meter Auditorium
WellU
WKU Educational Leadership Doctoral Program News
WKU Joint Admissions
WKU Parent and Family Weekend
Latest Headlines
7 charter members to be inducted into WKU chapter of SALUTE, national honor society for student veterans

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.

3 GIS alumni assist in post-hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico

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.

Former Police Officer Speaks to Entrepreneurship Students
Featured Articles
Former Police Officer Speaks to Entrepreneurship Students
Beta Alpha Psi Earns Superior Chapter Honors
Department Will Be Closed

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,
download excel.

Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
download word.

Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
download powerpoint.

Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
download quicktime.

 
 Last Modified 5/2/17