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The Cornell Wildlife Health Center Welcomes Maggie Swift!

Maggie Swift sitting on a rock in the field

The Cornell Wildlife Health Center and the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostics Sciences are excited to welcome Maggie Swift as a Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellow.

With a freshly-minted Ph.D. in ecology from Duke University, Dr. Margaret (Maggie) Swift will bring a computer science background and predictive modeling skills to work focused on how different livestock fencing scenarios in southern Africa might impact the migrations of wild mammals, especially elephants, and how alternative livestock disease management practices could protect both wild and domestic animals.

Her Cornell mentor is Steve Osofsky, D.V.M. ’89, the Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health & Health Policy and director of the Cornell Wildlife Health Center, and her external advisor is Dr. Robin Naidoo, senior conservation scientist and lead wildlife scientist for the World Wildlife Fund.

Dr. Swift’s simulation modeling skills bring an important new dimension to ongoing work in support of the five-nation Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA). Veterinary fencing crisscrosses much of southern Africa, protecting livestock from contracting diseases like foot and mouth from wild populations, but negatively impacting wildlife by preventing wild mammals from migrating seasonally to access grazing, water and other resources. 

Swift’s project will use advanced computer modeling, drawing on existing datasets from radio-collared animals, to investigate how elephants and other mammals currently move about southern Africa's KAZA TFCA, the largest such landscape in Africa, and how elephant movement patterns might change if alternative approaches to livestock disease management less dependent upon fencing were adopted. By simulating migrations using real-world tracking data, potential scenarios for integrative, sustainable land-use management become easier to understand and evaluate.

“As ecotourism revenues now rival those of livestock in much of the KAZA region, conservation of large herbivores that shape ecosystems and draw tourists is crucial,” Swift said. “In keeping with the One Health theme of both Cornell Atkinson and the Cornell Wildlife Health Center, this project will highlight the sustainable benefits of optimizing land-use planning at the interface of wildlife, livestock, and human health and livelihoods.”

Dr. Swift’s project is entitled "An application of predictive modeling to optimize land-use planning in support of southern African wildlife conservation and rural livestock keeping."

In her free time, Maggie enjoys playing classical guitar, trail running, hiking, and playing cards.

Related projects: Beyond Fences