The mission of the Urban Wildlife Research Project is to document gray fox behavior in the Palo Alto Baylands in order to establish healthy habitats and develop the biodiverse wildlife corridors necessary for their survival. As a result, UWRP helps San Francisco Bay area people and wild nature coexist through research, advocacy, and public education.
The Urban Wildlife Research Project
Founded in 2009, the Urban Wildlife Research Project (UWRP) embarked on a mission ignited by the curiosity and passion of Bill Leikam, famously known as “The Fox Guy.” Our journey began in the heart of the San Francisco Baylands where Bill discovered a thriving family of gray foxes nestled amidst the accelerating urban sprawl. This encounter led to years of meticulous observation and documentation, marking the inception of a groundbreaking venture into wildlife research and conservation.
At UWRP, our mission is to foster harmony between the bustling urban life of the San Francisco Bay area and the rich, yet vulnerable, tapestry of local wildlife. Guided by principles of scientific advancement, community involvement, and steadfast advocacy, we aim to document and preserve the intricate behaviors of wild animals, particularly focusing on the gray fox populations that navigate the challenges of urban coexistence.
Our programs are the backbone of our initiative, encompassing a wide array of efforts that include the preservation of our extensive research data, innovative field research, and impactful community outreach. With over 8 terabytes of unique data collected over a decade, we are committed to ensuring that this invaluable resource serves the future of wildlife conservation, assisting both seasoned biologists and aspiring citizen scientists in their quest to understand and protect our natural world.
The loss of the entire local gray fox population in 2016 and again in 2024 has been a stark reminder of the fragility of wildlife amidst urban expansion. However, it also strengthened our resolve to contribute to the protection of crucial habitats and corridors for these and other animals. Through collaboration, education, and unwavering dedication, the UWRP aspires to create a future where humans and wildlife flourish together, coexisting in a carefully balanced ecosystem. Join us on this compelling journey as we strive to make a lasting difference in the world of urban wildlife conservation.
the road to fox hollow
To learn more about Bill’s legacy researching gray foxes, give his latest book a read: ‘The Road to Fox Hollow’ can be purchased at Barnes & Noble Booksellers and directly from the publisher Di Angelo Publications.
Board of Directors & Volunteers
Beginning in October 2009 to the present Bill Leikam has conducted unprecedented, groundbreaking field research on the behavior of the gray fox. He is an associate director of the North Santa Clara Resource Conservation District. Bill has many accomplishments to his name including being a published live jazz reviewer for All About Jazz, contributed to the field guide, Canids of the World by Dr. Jose Castello, published by the Princeton University Press, has been praised in Beth Pratt’s book, When Mountain Lions are Neighbors as “the Jane Goodall of the gray fox”, and has been the subject of various magazines and news articles. In 1981 he was a Delegate to the People’s Republic of China based on his research into the nature of consciousness. His favorite quote is from Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia who wrote, “If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.”
Associate Director and co-founder, Greg Kerekes is a wildlife conservation photographer, preparing to work on a documentary series about the natural diversity of Santa Clara County and beyond. He is credited with capturing the first videos of a Beaver living on the Guadalupe River in San Jose, California. Greg and his wife Alexandria who is also an associate director are presently engaged in developing a series of urban organic farms. They sell their wares at Farmer’s Markets. In addition he and Alex also teach children of all ages about local vernal pond and conservation ecology.
Patrick Ryan graduated from Texas Christian University (TCU) in 2016 with a degree in Wildlife/Conservation Biology. As an undergraduate he participated in wildlife research on bats in North Texas, and on rhinos and other big game species in South Africa. Since graduating from TCU, Patrick has participated on several research projects consisting of prairie dog behavioral ecology in New Mexico, raccoon and opossum resource competition in South Carolina, deer survival and mountain lion predator-prey ecology in California, white-tailed deer movement ecology in Illinois, and predator community impact on waterfowl in South Dakota. Patrick leads the Urban Wildlife Research Project (UWRP) corridor initiative with rigorous field methodology.
“I am passionate about the Urban Wildlife Research Project because it provides a unique environment for community science, reputable research, as well as outreach and education.”
David has advocated for large-scale conservation for many decades. A co-founder of the Wildlands Network, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and Conservation Biology Institute, he currently serves as chair of the Marine Conservation Institute which is home to the Blue Parks/Global Ocean Refuge System Initiative. He has worked on conservation projects throughout the Americas, in the Russian Far East, Australia, Europe, and southern Africa. He is author of A New Conservation Politics (2009), a manual on effective conservation advocacy, and Conservation Politics: The Last Anti-Colonial Battle (2019), about overcoming the root causes of ecological decline instead of treating symptoms. He teaches politics and law at Portland State University.
“There is no substitute for large, connected wilderness—self-willed lands, waters, creatures and plants. Human numbers and an obsession with control have created vast urban areas that reach across the landscape. The Urban Wildlife Research Project is so important because it works to understand how wildlife can thrive in these areas and seeks to ensure that they do. These are vital tasks in our duty to help heal the Earth.”
Jessica Hatfield is a creative enthusiast with a profound love for wildlife, holding a degree in Veterinary Science from the University of Nevada, Reno. A childhood surrounded by nature and a pivotal hands-on conservation internship in South Africa shaped her career from the outset. Her role as Chair of the Urban Wildlife Research Project has been multifaceted, including critical research collaboration, digital marketing, data management, and strategic partnerships. Her expertise extends to videography and digital marketing at Patra Corp, where she skillfully employs industry-standard tools such as After Effects, Premiere, Photoshop, and Canva to captivate and engage. Jessica’s craft seamlessly weaves the ecological with the digital, illuminating her desire to harmonize the intricacies of the natural world with the compelling storytelling of the arts.
“I am passionate about the UWRP because coexistence between humans and a healthy, thriving, native wildlife population is necessary – and made possible when we work together to make the Bay Area a better place for both the people and the animals that inhabit it.”
Davy Davidson, MA, Transpersonal Psychology, has been an educator, an actress, an international communication coach to McKinsey Management consultants and an entrepreneur running VegTime, her own organic vegan food company. Davy has served on several environmental and animal rights boards. Wildlife has always been her inspiration and her retreat. When a gray fox visited her backyard in Los Altos Hills in 2018 Bill helped her understand more about his habits and habitat. Davy is thrilled to help UWRP grow.
“I am passionate about the Urban Wildlife Research Project because it addresses the space where humanity and wildlife intersect most often. Studies consistently show that humans need nature to be happy. Wildlife needs human care to thrive where urban development threatens its existence. Developing a healthy cohabitation with wildlife in our backyards is vital for all of us to thrive.”
Valerie Mih has developed STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and Sustainability educational curriculum for students of all ages for over 20 years. After working in the entertainment industry as an animator, she discovered a passion for producing innovative educational media and curriculum. She is the CEO of Quantum Academy, Executive Director of the nonprofit Grow Mind Learning Institute and a member of the Sierra Club’s CAFO group (a subcommittee of the Food & Agriculture Committee).
“I am passionate about the Urban Wildlife Research Project because humans learning to live in mutually supportive harmony with natural ecosystems and the living organisms with whom we share this planet is one of the most important challenges of our times.”
AnMarie Rodgers, Deputy Director at the Treasure Island Development Authority, leads the creation of the world’s largest, most sustainable neighborhood, as recognized by LEED. Previously, she directed Citywide Policy at San Francisco Planning Department, overseeing diverse projects like the HUB, Shared Spaces, and ClimateSF. AnMarie’s expertise in building relationships with elected officials and her role in developing landmark community plans, including Market & Octavia and Glen Park, highlight her contributions. As a board member of the UWRP, AnMarie married her love of nature with her professional realization that our future demands inclusive land use planning, working at a regional scale, and delivering livability for beings great and small.
Sterling Thomas completed his undergraduate education in Political Science at UC Berkeley in 2012 and an MBA at Northeastern University in 2022. Since Summer 2023, he has proudly worked in fiscal for his home county. For heritage reasons as well as ones as obvious as curiosity and awe, he is passionate about wildlife conservation. In the past, Sterling has tutored K-12 students & community college students, worked operations in securities, worked for a California state senator, and led finance for a property management company. Enduring passions & interests include indigeneity, literature, philosophy, film, and ethics.