Forecasting the future to protect monarchs

Postdoc Erin Zylstra led a team to project monarch butterfly population sizes throughout the Midwest to show where conservation efforts could have the most impact in the face of climate change.

Getting data to do more for biodiversity

A new model developed by graduate student Matt Farr is extracting more information than ever from camera traps and other low-cost data sources to help inform ecological studies and conservation efforts.

Monitoring: how effective is it to assess changes?

Graduate student Alex Wright led an analysis evaluating the effectiveness of common wildlife monitoring strategies to assess changes in species occurrences, published in Ecological Applications.

Macrosystems ecology special issue

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment‘s special issue on Macrosystems Ecology features two publications produced by lab members.

Two papers in Methods Ecology and Evolution, led by postdoc Jeff Doser, outline a new R package – spOccupancy – and a technique that combines occupancy and community models with data integration.

Graduate student Kayla Davis led a team from MSU, USGS, and USFWS in an intensive examination of the pitfalls and solutions in using aerial survey data to estimate wildlife abundances. 

Visiting student Xabier Cabodevilla led an international team in evaluating the impacts of irrigation on a community of birds in northern Spain using unique Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) data.

Graduate student Kayla Davis received the Best Student Presentation Award at the Waterbirds Society Meeting for her work using seabird data to investigate the effects of counting errors on abundance estimates.

Elise was awarded a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship to build statisical modeling capacity in Israel and assess the effects of climate change on insects using data from The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.

Graduate student Sam Ayebare received a Russell E. Train Fellowship from the World Wildlife Fund to support his PhD research and facilitate his next steps with a career in Uganda, his home country.

Elise Zipkin and Kayla Davis talked with Shelley Stall, Director of Data Leadership at AGU, in a Q&A focused on how our lab initiated an open science policy and implemented a reproducible code archive.

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

Sarah Saunders and Elise Zipkin created a model to understand and project threats to endangered species, earning the Ecological Society of America’s Outstanding Forecasting Publication Award.

In Nature Ecology and Evolution, a team led by postdoc Erin Zylstra determined the importance of breeding season weather to the population dynamics of monarch butterflies in eastern North America.

Graduate student Alex Wright examined what falls through the gap between scientifically informed conservation decisions and their outcomes – and how to move forward to protect biodiversity.

The lab received an NSF IIBR grant to unite diverse data sources into a novel and flexible statistical modeling framework to assess the status, trends and dynamics of individual species and biodiversity.

In collaboration with Maria Natalia Umaña, the lab is evaluating the integrated effect of multiple traits to understand whole-plant functionality across environmental gradients with an NSF DEB grant.

In a Science cover article, Elise Zipkin, Grace DiRenzo, Sam Rossman and colleagues documented the collapse of a snake community after a pathogen wiped out most of the area’s frogs.

With the USGS and NPS, graduate student Alex Wright led a team in developing statistical models to understand why amphibians in mid-Atlantic National Parks have been declining.

Members of the lab led an activity at MSU’s annual Girls Math and Science Day entitled “Using math to save monarch butterflies” where middle school students learned how models can help with conservation.

Elise Zipkin, Brian Inouye, and Steve Beissinger organized a collection of papers discussing the latest approaches to integrate and collectively analyze data to assess population dynamics.

Postdoc Sarah Saunders led a team examining the multi-scale factors affecting the size of wintering monarch colonies in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sam Ayebare received a Beinecke Scholarship from The Wildlife Society and The Sperry Fund to study statistical model development and applications to conservation in the Albertine Rift.

Graduate student Alli Sussman led a collaborative team to examine common methods for determining animal hotspots and found that the most popular methods can produce vastly different conclusions.

Graduate student Matt Farr collaborated with the Holekamp lab to examine the nuanced impacts of anthropogenic stressors on a community of carnivores, published in Ecological Applications.

Postdoc Grace DiRenzo led a study showing that after a chytrid pandemic in El Copé, Panama, the remaining amphibians developed the ability to coexist with the deadly fungus a decade later.

José Ribeiro led a team in evaluating the factors affecting amphibian distributions, creating a guide to help land-use development and efforts to conserve amphibians in a fragmented rainforest.

Funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the lab is collaborating with USFWS and USGS partners to model seabirds for the Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species.

Postdoc Sarah Saunders leads a study to determine the factors limiting recovery of the threatened piping plover population in the Great Lakes by developing an integrated population model.

Elise Zipkin was awarded an NSF Macrosystems Biology Early Career Award to study the factors affecting monarch butterfly declines with a multi-scale, continental-wide modeling framework.

Alli Sussman’s waterbird research and Sarah Saunders’s piping plover project were highlighted in The MSU Museum’s exhibit – Michigan Bird Conservation Stories: Pigeons Past to Plovers Present.

Postdoc Christie Bahlai leads development of teaching modules for best practices in open, reproducible, and accessible science using a grant from the Mozilla Science Foundation.

Postdoc Sarah Saunders awarded the MSU’s Postdoctoral Excellence in Research Award for her outstanding achievements in research, and her accomplishments in teaching and outreach.

Elise is one of seven early career fellows elected by the Ecological Society of America in 2017. Fellows are chosen for advancing the science of ecology and showing promise for future contributions.

Postdoc Sam Rossman led development of a novel modeling approach – estimating population abundance and demographic rates from relatively easy to collect presence-absence data.

Postdoc Sarah Saunders led a study to estimate and predicts monarchs on Ohio and Illinois summer breeding grounds based on climate conditions during the spring breeding season in Texas.

The world is filled with difficult ecological problems. The goal in our lab is to address these issues by developing modeling techniques that can lead to solutions for even the most daunting challenges.