Brian Griffiths, SIS post-doctoral fellow, wins best dissertation award

Brian Griffiths, SIS post-doctoral fellow, wins best dissertation award.

Brian Griffiths


The Environmental Science and Policy faculty have selected Dr. Brian Griffiths to receive the Best Ph.D. Dissertation Award at the 2021 Virtual Departmental Awards Ceremony. Dr. Griffiths is completing a post-doctoral fellowship with the School of Integrative Studies and is working closely with Dr. Mike Gilmore, who also served as his dissertation advisor. He earned a B.S. in Plant Science and a B.E. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Delaware, and completed his Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason university in 2020. Dr. Griffiths is teaching INTS 210- Sustainable World this semester.

Dissertation Synopsis from Dr. Griffiths:

My dissertation was a collaboration with the indigenous Maijuna people of the Peruvian Amazon and aimed to use a multidisciplinary approach to develop a thorough understanding of hunting in one Maijuna community. First, I assessed the cultural and economic motivations for hunting. The beliefs and preferences of individual hunters influenced prey selection. Hunters exhibited territorial behavior in relation to their hunting zones, where each family typically hunted in a specific zone. I suggested that these territorial tendencies, combined with differences in prey selection, could create refuges for some species across the landscape. Next, I used hunting pressure data measured using interviews to create a spatial model of hunting pressure. My spatial model can be used in biological models that evaluate the impacts of hunting on animal populations where ground-truthed data is too expensive or difficult to obtain. I suggested that interviews are an accurate, efficient method for gathering data on hunting pressure where ground-truthed data is needed. I also used camera trapping methods at 80 mineral licks in the Sucusari River Basin to evaluate the impacts of hunting pressure on mammal behavior. I suggested that hunting pressure in Sucusari may not be high enough to stimulate a behavioral response from game species, or that hunters’ abilities to target game spatially and temporally mask any behavioral adaptations that may be occurring.

Overall, I showed that hunting pressure is variable across the landscape, depending on environmental factors, cultural factors, and decision-making by individual hunters. I suggested that researchers and land use managers carefully consider the factors that influence how humans interact with wildlife populations in their study site before making decisions on which methods to use to estimate hunting pressure and its impacts. Furthermore, my description of hunting practices in Sucusari and the lack of behavioral change of mammals at mineral licks in response to hunting pressure indicate that community-based management of hunting can be effective.