I am an enthusiastic teacher that thrives on the intellectual challenge of keeping a step ahead of highly motivated students. All the courses I have developed rely heavily on the primary literature and my personal experiences in the field for lecture material. I challenge students with essay questions and require written papers in most classes to provide a forum for improving students' writing skills. I also encourage oral presentations by students because I feel that public speaking skills are essential for professional biologists.
Research Interests and Approaches:
My current research interests include studying the effects of forest fragmentation on the nest predators of the endangered Marbled Murrelet and a variety of songbirds in coastal Washington, understanding how best to conserve birds native to the Pacific Islands, and determining how birds respond to urbanization. Although these topics seem disjunct, they have a strong common thread that has anchored most of my research since graduate school. That thread is my personal interest and enthusiasm for corvids, especially jays, crows, and ravens. Throughout most of the world these intelligent birds thrive on humankind's waste and have increased dramatically in abundance and range. As a result, they often unbalance ecosystems because they limit the productivity of other organisms such as the endangered Least Tern and Marbled Murrelet. In the Pacific Islands and other tropical locations, however, many corvids are endangered.
The Hawaiian Crow is one of the rarest birds in the world with less than 30 individuals remaining worldwide and less than 15 surviving in the wild. I am an active contributor to the recovery of this species as a former member of the USFWS appointed Recovery Team and advisor to other research on the islands. The Mariana Crow survives only slightly better on the islands of Guam and Rota. I currently lead the USFWS Recovery Team for this species. Research conducted by myself and my students in Idaho is also aiding the recovery of this species. In my work on the recovery of these critically endangered species I have been more concerned with demographic issues than genetic ones because in very small populations genetic options are limited. My research has focused on the development of hand-rearing techniques (egg incubation regimes, chick-rearing diets and feeding schedules) and reintroduction techniques (testing the effects of rearing birds with and without puppets to simulate parents, with and without wild tutors, and determining how birds respond to releases in areas with and without conspecifics).
My recent research on corvid predation in Washington illustrates an important aspect of conservation biology that I will always try to maintain. This is the importance of cooperative research that involves all important stakeholders. My research is jointly supported state, federal, and private forest managers. Thus, all major landowners and managers on the Peninsula are intimately involved with the research, support its design, and will therefore be more likely to implement our findings for the benefit of the murrelet in the future. By involving all stakeholders in a contentious issue, like how timber harvest may potentially influence an endangered species, we hope to avoid polarizations and mistrust that were common in the similar effort to understand how timber harvest influences Spotted Owls.
I am also interested in the conservation of birds of prey. These species often face endangerment, but my research on them has focused more on understanding their habits before they become endangered so that expensive restoration projects can be avoided. In this light, I have had worked with students and colleagues studying Golden Eagles and Prairie Falcons in the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.