My research

Overview

Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate with anthropogenically induced changes in land use, biological invasions, and climate change being among the primary drivers. Given that 75% of the ice-free Earth has been modified by humans, it is critical that we develop a better understanding of how to protect biodiversity in human-modified systems. Within that context, my research revolves around a few specific themes:

  1. Improving tools for sampling and modeling species distributions and dynamics;

  2. Identifying threatened populations and underlying causes;

  3. Developing applied conservation and management solutions for species impacted by anthropogenic disturbances.

Sampling and modeling species distributions
Identifying populations impacted by anthropogenic disturbance requires quantitative tools that can accurately assess population changes and their underlying causes. Yet ecologists are often faced with unique challenges that make it difficult to quantify these patterns and processes, including imperfect detection of target species, mobile organisms that move within and among sampling units, and small sample sizes due to financial and logistical constraints. Much of my work focuses on integrating novel sampling and modeling approaches to improve estimation of species distributions and dynamics in the face of these challenges.

Examples of recent and ongoing projects

  • Distinguishing within-territory movements from territory shifts in unmarked birds

  • Improving parameter estimation in occupancy models fit to small datasets

  • Comparing ground- and radar-based survey methods for monitoring avian migration

  • A review of sampling and modeling approaches and their application to research questions

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Drivers of distributions and dynamics in disturbed systemsTo effectively mitigate biodiversity loss in human-modified systems, we need to first identify factors that limit species distributions and cause population declines over time.

My research examines the impacts of anthropogenic disturbances on the processes that shape populations of individual species including habitat selection, dispersal, and reproduction. I also work at the community level to identify commonalities among species and populations impacted by disturbances such as habitat fragmentation and agricultural development.


Examples of recent and ongoing projects

  • Disentangling the effects of forest loss and fragmentation on breeding bird communities

  • Impacts of historical disturbances on global distribution of fragmentation sensitive species

  • Effects of forest gaps on dispersal ability of forest-dependent birds

  • Impacts of landscape connectivity on pollination rates by tropical hummingbirds

  • Drivers of survival, nest success, and habitat selection for the Marbled Murrelet

  • Understanding marsh bird habitat associations in managed wetlands

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Applied conservation solutions
​Understanding the factors that limit species distributions is only the first step in biodiversity conservation. The second is to work with agency partners to develop realistic management actions to help mitigate population declines. The most applied aspect of my research involves testing the effectiveness of different management actions for achieving targeted outcomes in biodiversity protection. This work also spans a gradient from focusing on individual species of high conservation concern to examining how diversity and composition of whole communities are structured by management approaches.


Examples of recent and ongoing projects

  • Identifying factors that mediate conspecific attraction in breeding birds

  • The role of conspecific presence in habitat selection for the endangered Marbled Murrelet

  • Responses of avian communities to different removal patterns of invasive Russian olive

  • Comparing land-sparing and land-sharing conservation in coffee agro-forestry systems

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