Ocelot work earns Lindsay Martinez a Labisky Fellowship

As Lindsay Martinez researches ocelot recovery in South Texas, she’s looking at more than the landscape of thornscrub that the endangered cat often inhabits. Working with the East Foundation, she’s also focused on the policy landscape and mechanisms that could be put in place to expand the ocelots’ range. 

“I was always really interested in big cat conservation and endangered cat conservation,” said Martinez, a master’s student at Texas A&M University. “When I saw the opportunity to be involved with a group that does endangered cat conservation in the U.S., I wanted to be involved in that.”

A new TWS fellowship is aiding her efforts. Martinez is the first recipient of the first Ronald F. Labisky Graduate Fellowship in Wildlife Policy. Created in 2021 through a contribution from longtime TWS member Ronald F. Labisky, the graduate-level fellowship supports student scholars pursuing careers advancing wildlife policy issues with up to $10,000.

“I was excited to hear about it,” said Martinez, who is entering her second year in the university’s new Department of Rangeland, Wildlife and Fisheries Management.

She will be recognized for the award at the upcoming TWS Annual Conference in Spokane, Washington, in November. 

Martinez began working on the project in February 2021. Her work has included helping with trapping, collaring and taking samples of ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) on an East Foundation ranch, where most of the state’s ocelots live. But her focus is at the policy level, looking at ways to expand the cats’ range in a state where most land is in private hands. 

“It’s not typical management. It’s not fieldwork,” said Martinez, who served as a TWS policy intern in 2020. But the work could be critical in allowing the cat’s population to grow—including possible reintroduction efforts. 

She and her colleagues have been looking into what policy mechanisms can support partnerships with private landowners and allow reintroduction of the animals. (More information about the project is available at RecoverTexasOcelots.org.)

A graduate of Princeton University, Martinez hopes to complete her master’s work in August 2023. She said she’s thankful for Labisky’s generosity in making the fellowship possible, and to the university and East Foundation for allowing her to pursue her work.

“I really hope to stay involved in the ocelot project,” she said. “I hope to see it through until the day that ocelots get released on the ground, if it comes to that.”

Header Image: Lindsay Martinez received the first Ronald F. Labisky Graduate Fellowship in Wildlife Policy from TWS for her work on ocelot recovery. Credit: Courtesy Lindsay Martinez