Dr. Rachael Urbanek

Dr. Rachael E. Urbanek

Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Certified Wildlife Biologist®
Department Chair
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina Wilmington
601 South College Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403-5949
Office: Dobo Hall 2006/2030     Email: urbanekr@uncw.edu     Phone: 910.962.7909

Research Interests

My background consists of a strong education in wildlife ecology accompanied by a diverse amount of research and teaching experiences. Over the course of my short career, I have had the pleasure to conduct research on a wide variety of animals: timber rattlesnakes, ruffed grouse, white-tailed-deer, raccoons, eastern cottontails, swamp rabbits, Blanding’s turtles, and feral cats. This collection of animals reflects my broad interests in all things ecology; however nothing has exited me more than urban wildlife ecology.

Human populations are growing exponentially and urban sprawl is creating massive metropolitan areas that are interspersed with green habitats. As this is happening, wildlife species are becoming synurbized and adapting to a more anthropogenic environment through changes in behavior and population dynamics. I embrace the thought of researching wildlife and humans in urban settings with great enthusiasm. In urban environments, there are new obstacles such as conserving endangered species in a predominantly harsh anthropogenic landscape, maintaining sustainable populations of all biota in limited green space, and managing human-wildlife conflicts that are at an intensity level never experienced in history. In addition, this is my and other urban wildlife ecologists’ chance to educate the public in why we need to conserve wildlife and native landscapes. Through my work, I hope to increase future support of wildlife and conservation efforts by increasing stakeholder involvement in wildlife management and providing novel educational experiences for urban children and adults.

Dr. Urbanek's hand with a bear

Urban Ecology

In 2020, I initiated an urban wildlife monitoring program in New Hanover County, NC using infrared passive game cameras. Currently, I am deploying cameras at UNCW, Landfall COA, Halyburton Park, and several NHC parks. My overall goal is to inventory and monitor trends of wildlife populations throughout the county and understand how they populations may be changing as the county continues to develop. I work closely with my community partners and share the best pictures of the cutest critters for them to share with their constituents.

If you would like to become one of my community partners and have game cameras deployed on your property, please contact me!

Coyotes at Landfall COA

Wildlife Management

Since moving to North Carolina, I have focused much of my wildlife management research to be in collaboration with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources. I have worked with Colleen Olfenbuttel, the State Bear and Fur-bearer Biologist, in projects to improve management and monitoring of red (Vulpes vullpes) and gray (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) fox population and rehabilitated black bears ( Ursus americanus). We are currently working on a project assessing efficacy of the highway underpasses installedon Hwy. 64 after 10 years of no maintenance.

This project has room for undergraduates or graduate students seeking DIS experience!

Bobcat using Hwy. 64 underpass

Coastal Ecology

Given that New Hanover County, NC, is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River, coastal ecology projects are more accessible than anywhere else I have ever lived! While my research focuses on terrestrial wildlife, these critters often make their way beaches and barrier islands. As such, my coastal ecology research tends to focus on the predation of shorebirds and turtles along the coast. I have collaborated with the North Carolina National Estuarine Research System, the North Carolina Wildife Resources Commission, North Carolina Audubon, and Bald Head Island Conservancy.

Owl on Shorebird Nesting Sign

Human Dimensions of Wildlife

My human dimensions research often focuses on preventative management of wildlife through public surveys of possible urban wildlife management or assessing where public education and outreach is needed to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and zoonotic disease.

If you are a municipality that is experiencing a lot of urban wildlife concerns and/or sightings and you would like a survey of your public constituents of their perceptions of the wildife populations, their attitudes towards wildlife, or their preferences for certain wildlife management strategies feel free to contact me!

Draft postcard from NHC coyote research

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This site and its contents are maintained by Dr. Rachael Urbanek and were updated on 1 July 2022. Please contact the author if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.