People


Principal Investigators

Travis Gallo, Assistant Professor

Google Scholar | Research Gate | CV | GitHub

Travis Gallo is an Assistant Professor in Urban Ecology and Conservation and is the lab PI. Travis works to understand how urban environments shape species distributions, populations, communities, and behaviors. The goal of his research is to provide evidence-based solutions that simultaneously conserve biological diversity and improve the lives of urban residents.

Postdoctoral Scholars

Gabby Palomo, Postdoctoral Researcher

Gabby’s personal website

I am a postdoctoral researcher working on a 2-year research project to understand potential areas of interactions between humans and white-tailed deer using camera traps and human mobility data across multiple US cities. Deer are a species of interest in understanding spillover risk between humans and wildlife since multiple studies have identified SARS-CoV-2 infections in white-tailed deer. I got my PhD from the University of Nebraska Lincoln in 2022, working with Andrew J Tyre (advisor). My background is in carnivore ecology, specifically ocelot populations in Guatemala. I am interested in studying the impacts of human activities on wildlife and their effects on population dynamics, behavior, and wildlife-habitat relationships. However, I spend so much time learning about Bayesian models that I’m starting to question my priors in ecology. I’m originally from Guatemala and have previously worked in natural history collections, teaching undergraduate-level classes, and orchid and bromeliad horticulture.

Graduate Students

Krista Shires, Ph.D. Candidate

I am a PhD student in Environmental Science and Policy with a background in Psychology. My previous experiences as a veterinary technician, animal control officer, and zoo keeper-aide have all influenced my research. I am interested in the impact of urbanization on wildlife, specifically, how human interference alters predator-prey dynamics, stress, and behavioral patterns of local species. I am interested in utilizing citizen science to answer broader questions about landscape ecology and serve as a method of public education with the aim of fostering a connection between people and nature.


Merri Collins, Ph.D. Candidate

I am a graduate student in the Environmental Science and Policy Program at George Mason. I have worked with a variety of species in past positions as a wildlife conservation biologist, everything from herpetofauna to marine mammals. I am interested in human/wildlife conflict mitigation, understanding drivers of local habitat and species losses, and how we can reduce these through practical application and management. At Mason I will be starting the National Capital’s first large-scale, and long-term urban wildlife monitoring project.


Dan Herrera, Ph.D. Student

Dan’s personal website

I am a graduate student in Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland. My research experience has broadly focused on animal behavior and urban ecology. During the winter of 2017 and summer of 2018, I worked with Dr. Gallo at the Urban Wildlife Institute in Chicago, IL. I have since moved to Washington, DC, to survey the Capitol’s wildlife through a collaboration between the Humane Rescue Alliance and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. I am thrilled to continue working with Dr. Gallo as we use these data to better understand wildlife response to urbanization on a fine scale. I am interested in dynamic interactions between the anthropogenic and natural landscapes that influence urban wildlife, and the resulting potential human-wildlife conflict.


Adam Pekor, Ph.D. Student

I am a graduate student in Environmental Science and Technology with a background in law. My research focuses on human-wildlife coexistence and lion population connectivity in northern Tanzania. Working with a local conservation organization called KopeLion, I helped develop a conservation incentive payment program to mitigate human-lion conflict in a key protected area. I am now studying the impacts of this program and lion population connectivity across the region to help understand the most effective tools for engaging communities, facilitating connectivity, and promoting coexistence in shared landscapes.


Kay Pontarelli, M.S. Student

I’m a M.S graduate student in the Environmental Science and Policy Program at George Mason University (GMU), with a concentration in Conservation Science and Policy. My interests are within animal ecology in urbanized areas. My love for wildlife came from growing up as a military brat overseas with each transition presenting new habitats to explore. At GMU I’m studying insect community composition in residential yards to see how neighborhoods could provide beneficial habitat for insects. This would, in turn, affect nearby flora and fauna that depend on insects as food, pollinators, pest control, and decomposers, and decrease fragmentation caused by urbanization.


Hannah Wood, M.S. Student

I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in environmental science with a concentration in conservation science and policy through the ESP Accelerated Master’s program. I have always been passionate about wildlife and taking care of the world around us. My research investigates behavior change of urban mammals using a field-based novel object study in the Washington, D.C. metro.

Undergraduate Students

Jishan Chowdhury, Research Assistant

I am an undergrad student in the Environmental Science And Technology program at the University Of Maryland with a concentration in Ecological Tech Design. I have always been very passionate about the environment and how humans affect the environment. My dream is to see an environmently friendly world.

Lab Alumni

Graduate Students:

Angela Gaal - M.S. Student (2019-2021). Currently at Lord Green Strategies

Kate Ritzel - M.S. Student (2019-2021). Currently at U.S.G.S.

Nick Moreno – PhD student on rotation (2020).

Undergraduate Students:

Faith Kruger - Undergraduate Research Assistant (2020-2022)

Tristan Silva-Montoya - Undergraduate Research Assistant (2020-2022)

Alix Upchurch - Undergraduate Research Assistant (2022)

Roberto Aguilar-Rojas - Undergraduate Research Assistant (2021).

Khanh Nguyen – Undergraduate Research Assistant (2020).

Melissa Irahet – Undergraduate Research Assistant (2020).

Daniel Marzluff – Undergraduate Research Assistant (2020)