Hila Shamoon is a landscape ecologist and mammologist at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Conservation Ecology Center. Shamoon is focused on understanding the role of ecosystem engineers in a human-dominated landscape, and at what scales ecosystem engineers provide desired outcomes to supports ecosystem intactness. This work, in partnership with the American Prairie Reserve, is part of a restoration initiative of North American’s Great Plains.
Shamoon’s study revolves around two grassland ecosystem engineer species, American bison and black-tailed prairie dogs. American Prairie Reserve began reintroducing American bison to northeastern Montana more than a decade ago. Bison were once a dominant ecological force of the North American Great Plains, up to their near extinction by European settlers in the 1800s. They are considered ecosystem engineers, supporting landscape heterogeneity through grazing, trampling and wallowing activities, which influenced the diversity and abundance of hundreds of prairie species. Shamoon investigates how pasture size effects bison movement patterns and behavior, and how these patterns effect other grassland species. Shamoon also examines the population dynamics and disease ecology of the black-tailed prairie dog, a nearly extinct keystone species, and tries to understand how prairie dogs influence vegetation composition and mammals’ habitat use in grasslands.
Shamoon uses a multi-species, multi-trophic approach to answer local- and landscape-level questions that unveil mechanistic processes and cascading processes, combining several modeling methodologies, and collects data from the field using several remote sensing technologies, such as camera traps, audio recordings, GPS tags and aerial image processing.
Shamoon works in Phillips County, Montana, during the warm months and in Bozeman, Montana, during the winter.