Dr. David W. Tonkyn

Population ecology

Clemson University

Christie Sampson

Christie Sampson





Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Clemson University – Anticipated 2017

·          Alpha Epsilon Lambda Graduate Student Honor Society

                Member, 2012 to present

                President, 2014-2015


M.S., Biological Sciences, Clemson University- 2013

·           National Science Foundation GFP- Honorable Mention- 2011, 2


BS, Biosystems Engineering, Michigan State University- 2005

·           Fundamentals of Engineering exam- 2006

BS, Zoology, Michigan State University- 2005


I have worked in the field of ecology for over 7 years, both within the United States and internationally.  My extensive field experience working with both animal and plant systems has allowed me to address population and community ecology questions for both governmental and nonprofit organizations working  in temperate and tropical ecosystems. My current focus is on developing sustainable mitigation methods for reducing human-elephant conflict in Myanmar but I am also interested in invasive species ecology, science outreach, GIS, restoration ecology, and fire ecology.


Both my MS and PhD work have focused on conserving Asian elephant populations in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and non-profit groups. For my MS thesis entitles 'Conserving the land of the giants: Critical threats to Asian elephant habitat in Sri Lankan protected areas', I conducted some of the first basic and applied research on the management of elephant habitat in two protected areas in Sri Lanka. My project determined the habitat most heavily used by elephants within the parks, and the plant community composition of the three most common habitat types. I also examined the importance of fires in a) maintaining open grasslands, b) reducing or facilitating the distribution of exotic and invasive species, and c) maintaining higher elephant densities in recently burnt areas over other habitats. The conclusions of my study were presented to the the park wardens and wildlife conservation officials within the Sri Lankan government and used to make habitat management decisions to better conserve the Asian elephant populations.


My PhD work is focusing on addressing issues associated with human-elephant conflict (HEC) in Myanmar. My first field season in summer 2014 was exceptionally productive and I was able to interview over 300 families regarding the type and amount of HEC they experienced, their current mitigation efforts and their overall attitudes towards elephant conservation in Myanmar. In December 2014, I will be deploying four GPS enabled collars on two male and two female elephants in high HEC regions to monitor elephant movement. Satellite-collaring the conflict elephants is the only reliable method to record the movements and habitat use in tropical rainforest environments. The data obtained by tracking these elephants will improve our understanding of how elephant behavior and movement results in conflict, how effective current mitigation is, and assist us to develop new management and mitigation approaches (such as temporary electric fencing). 





C. Sampson, P. Leimgruber, and D. Tonkyn. 2014. Effects of fire, invasive species and illegal grazing on Asian elephant habitat use. In prep


C. Sampson. 2013. Conserving the Land of the Giants: Critical threats to Asian elephant habitat in Sri Lankan protected areas. MS thesis


C. Sampson. 2012. Mapping a Critical Resource: the Habitats of Sri Lanka’s Elephants. Remotely Wild 28: 26-29


M. Songer, C. Sampson, C. Williams,J. Forrest, K.Gyeltshen, K. Huy, A. Sharma, A. Gopala, A. Budiman,   H. Sadikin, K. Yulianto, A. Viengkhamhak, E. Azli Ayub, D. Anthony,  R. Alfred, B. Pandav, U. Dachyosdee, OngDinhBao Tri, M. Raj, M. Delion,  Gokarna, Jung Thapa and P. Leimgruber. 2012. Mapping Habitat Loss and Human-Elephant-Conflict (HEC) in WWF Priority Landscapes. Gajah 36: 3-10


Doyle S., M. Groo, C. Sampson, M. Songer, M. Jones and P. Leimgruber. 2010. Human-Elephant Conflict—What Can We Learn from the News? Gajah 32: 14-20


M. Songer, C. Sampson, J. Forrest, C. Williams, K. Gyeltshen, K. Huy, A. Sharma, A. Gopala, A. Budiman, H. Sadikin, K. Yulianto, A. Viengkhamhak, E. AzliAyub, R. Alfred, B. Pandav, U. Dachyosdee, OngDinhBao Tri, M. Raj, M. Delion, V. Shevade, Gokarna. Jung Thapa and P. Leimgruber. 2010. Mapping Habitat Loss and Human-Elephant-Conflict (HEC) in WWF AREAS and Tiger Priority Landscapes: Prototyping Habitat and Population Monitoring for Asia’s Charismatic Megafauna. Report from a workshop in Ooty, India, March 23-27, 2009.