James Sheppard, Ph.D.

Conservation Research Postdoctoral Fellow

James Sheppard is a Postdoctoral Fellow within the Applied Animal Ecology Division of the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. His primary role is to research the spatial ecology, habitat use and socioecology of the California condors that are being reintroduced by the San Diego Zoo to Baja California, Mexico. James also provides scientific advice and assistance with the Zoo’s Desert Tortoise rehabilitation program, Golden Eagle project in Mexico and giant panda conservation program in China.

James is a spatial and landscape ecologist, with a broad interest in the movement patterns, habitat use and resource selection of endangered wildlife. Spatial ecology is the fastest growing field in ecology, and is being driven by rapid developments in biologging technology. Biologgers are miniaturized digital instruments that enable previously unobtainable information to be remotely acquired on the spatial behaviors and internal state of free-ranging wildlife. James uses biologgers to record data on the location and energetics of individual animals in the wild, which he then matches to data on the species environment acquired through remote sensing and direct sampling. Advances in biologging are also being matched by developments in spatial analytical techniques. James uses these techniques, such as geographic information systems and spatial modeling, to compile, analyze and contextualize the biologging data so that a complete picture of the spatial ecology and habitat requirements of the study species can be accurately determined. He also uses spatial analysis to identify and characterize the specific habitats and habitat resources that support populations of endangered wildlife, with a view to directly informing and enhancing conservation management strategies.

James earned a Masters degree in Environmental and Marine Science from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He graduated from James Cook University, Australia with a PhD, focusing on the spatial and nutritional ecology of the dugong. James joined the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research in 2007.