Background. For some of us, ecological patterns and processes provide the foundation for an almost unlimited array of questions about the natural world. I focus my research on the population and community dynamics of vertebrates, especially on issues relevant to conservation and recovery of rare species. In general, I classify these issues, as well as my scientific interests, as conservation biology and applied ecology. 

In particular, I am interested in understanding the effects of human activities on populations and communities of animals—primarily vertebrates—and in developing workable strategies to mitigate these effects. Most support for my research has come from land-management agencies that often face resource-management challenges that align with my interests. 

Working closely with my students, I have pursued research questions focused on understanding an array human impacts on animals, which have ranged from short-term recreational activities to long-term, large-scale changes in land use. We have studied a wide array of species, often choosing those based on their ability to provide insight into the specific research question. Similarly, we have quantified a range of responses, including behavior, demography, and community structure and composition. Because human impacts vary in intensity and in their spatial and temporal extent, they provide a range of perspectives of how these activities affect wildlife in changing landscapes.

A note to prospective students. Typically, I only accept new students when I have support to fund their research and academic programs (i.e., tuition and stipend).  

When I have an opportunity available, I post an announcement to internet sites (e.g., job boards hosted by Texas A&M, The Wildlife Society, Society for Conservation Biology) so that prospective students interested in working with me on a  specific research topic can apply directly. 

Former students. You can get an idea of the work we do through the thesis and dissertation titles for the students who have done their graduate work with me.

Elliott Swarthout, MS, 1999. Recreation and Mexican spotted owls on the Colorado Plateau.

Brian F. Powell, MS, 1999. Habitat associations of bird communities in southern Arizona.

Sherry L. Mann, MS, 1999. Effects of human activity on cave myotis in southern Arizona.

Angela Dahlby, MS, 2000. Wildlife responses to fire in Bandelier National Monument.

Holly K. Ober, MS, 2000. Foraging ecology of the endangered lesser long-nosed bat. Awarded outstanding MS thesis.

David H. Hall, MS, 2002. Movements of Sonoran mud turtles in arid landscapes.

Aaron Flesch, MS, 2003. Distribution, habitat, and abundance of cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls in Sonora, Mexico.

Eric Albrecht, MS, 2004. Effects of prescribed fire on songbirds in grassland ecosystems.

Andrea R. Litt, PhD, 2007. Effects of experimental fire and nonnative grass invasion on small mammals and insects. Awarded outstanding PhD dissertation. Recipient of McGinnies Graduate Fellowship in Arid Land Studies, 2001.

Danielle I. O’Dell, MS, 2007. Experimental effects of vegetation and soil damage on small mammals in semi-desert grasslands.

Erin R. Zylstra, MS, 2008. Evaluating monitoring strategies for Sonoran Desert tortoises. Awarded outstanding MS thesis.

Eric R. Wallace, MS, 2008. Habitat of lowland leopard frogs in mountain canyons of southeastern Arizona.

David Erickson, MS, 2011. Effects of human activity on behavior and demography of ungulates in East Africa.

Amanda Borens, MS, 2012. A model-based strategy to identify important areas for bird conservation.

Katherine M. Gray, MS, 2012. Effects of nonnative plants on demography and habitat use of desert tortoises.

Ana V. Cerro, MS, 2012. Temporal and spatial dynamics of lesser long-nosed bats, an endangered vertebrate pollinator.

Kyle Thompson, MS, 2016. Distribution of mammals in Sky Islands along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Erin R. Zylstra, PhD, 2018. Population dynamics of canyon treefrogs and lowland leopard frogs in desert mountain canyons. Awarded outstanding PhD dissertation. Recipient of McGinnies Graduate Fellowship in Arid Land Studies, 2014.

Erik M. Andersen, PhD, 2019. Effects of plant invasions on breeding birds in desert grasslands. Recipient of McGinnies Graduate Fellowship in Arid Land Studies, 2017.