Solving Conservation Puzzles

Pieces of a puzzle of a monarch butterfly

Welcome to Elise Zipkin’s Quantitative Ecology Lab

Our lab develops statistical models to unravel some of the world’s most alarming natural mysteries at the intersection of ecology, conservation biology, and the management of biodiversity. We study the status, trends and dynamics of populations and communities – insects, birds, amphibians, fish, reptiles, and mammals.

Our mission: to understand and predict how and why nature is changing, the consequences of those changes, and what, if any, action is recommended.

Pieces of a puzzle of a monarch butterfly


Data Integration

We combine multiple data types to estimate species patterns across space and time relative to environmental variables.

Community Models

We evaluate both individual species impacts as well as critical community responses and metrics of biodiversity.

Unmarked Data Models

We develop models to estimate species abundance and biological parameters from the most widely available data types.

Active Projects

Understanding monarch butterfly trajectories

Monarchs are declining across North America. We integrate data across the monarch’s migratory life cycle to determine why they are declining and how these butterflies may fare in the future under climate change.


Assessing bird species and community dynamics

Even similar bird species can respond differently to climate and environmental variables. We develop models to examine both species and community responses to natural and anthropogenic stressors.


Predicting management actions on amphibians

Amphibians need specific environmental conditions to thrive. Working to understand management needs, we create models to predict how conservation actions can impact populations and communities.


Evaluating anthropogenic stress on mammals

Mammals are sensitive to the ways in which their habitats are altered by humans. We combine multiple data sources to estimate species distributions in relation to biotic and abiotic landscape variables.



What does the Zipkin Lab do?

Curious to learn more about our work and why it is important? The College of Natural Science at MSU produced a video highlighting some of the lab’s latest research and its impact on the world.

Why are monarch butterflies disappearing?

Our latest research determined the importance of breeding season weather to the population dynamics of eastern North American monarch butterflies and what the future might hold for monarchs under climate change.

Data-driven bird conservation project takes wing

With a $1.3M grant from the NSF, our lab and Audubon will integrate continential-scale data to estimate and forecast the effects of climate and land-use change on bird populations and communities.

Elise Zipkin named Fulbright Scholar

Elise spent her recent sabbatical at Tel Aviv University as a Fulbright Senior Scholar where she worked with Israeli researchers to assess the effects of climate change on insects using data from the The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.

Butterflies key to evaluating insect declines

With a grant from the USGS Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, the lab is working with Georgetown, USGS, and USFWS to shed new light on butterflies using 30 years of data.

Join us

The Zipkin Lab strives to provide a productive, fulfilling, and fun environment for our members and collaborators. We work together, treating science as a team sport. Individuals can join as undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers. Check out our lab policies to learn more about us.