Conservation Research

Hillside of village sacred forest with view of valley below

Sacred Forests in northwest Yunnan, China - a conservation priority?


Village sacred forests are small village forests protected as part of people’s religious beliefs and not because they are important to wildlife or air quality, and therefore may be better conserved without “official” conservation status.
Jun 2016

One foot in conservation, one in the Ivory tower – The challenges of doing research AND making a difference


In an ideal world, conservation decisions are made based on the best scientific knowledge available. How do these two worlds, with different expectations and different time scales work together?
Feb 2016
Field work

Measuring trail use with remote detectors


We suspect that bird reproductive success and community composition may be negatively affected by recreational use of natural areas. But, how do we quantify recreational use?
Jan 2016
Study lake in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin

The differential importance of aquatic insect productivity on terrestrial, insectivorous bird guilds.


Aerial insectivore birds have experienced population declines while other insectivore guilds have not. Paul’s research shows that aerial insectivore abundance is related to aquatic insect emergence, while gleaner abundance is not.
Jan 2016
Study area map

Forest change in Caucasus in 1980-2010


In the Western Caucasus in 1985-2010, the deforestation rate was surprisingly low compared to other Russian regions. The biggest hotspot of forest disturbance was construction for Olympic Games – 2014 that happened within Sochi National Park.
Jan 2016
Small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus). Photo by: J.N. Stuart at Flickr.com

Where and how well mongooses are doing in Puerto Rico? A study of invasive mongoose in the island


Mongooses in Puerto Rico are sly animals. Diana is finding the routes and eating habits of the species, in an effort to optimize the management in the island.
Jan 2016
Potential distribution for jaguars in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve

Finding critical habitat for jaguars when potential distributions of species is not enough: Connectivity to the rescue


For the jaguar in México, habitat connectivity might be the most conservation sound option to avoid decimation. Carlos designed a model that integrates potential distribution and connectivity which could influence management of jaguars in Central Mexico.
Jan 2016
Research team members meeting with refuge managers

Working with managers – sharing research results, and getting feedback on research on extreme climate events


Climate change has managers concerned about the future of their refuges. The extreme weather events project members have been meeting with refuge managers to help them understand what will happen.
Jan 2016

Habitat connectivity for the Indochinese tiger in Thailand


The Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris) is one of the most emblematic animal species on Earth but also one of the most endangered wildlife species globally. A current study is using remote sensing techniques to map the distribution and connectivity of tiger habitat in Thailand, one of the last remaining hotspots for the Indochinese tiger.
Jan 2015

Evaluating the influence of conservation plans on land protection actions in Wisconsin


How often do you plan? Do you plan your work, vacations, or social life? Now think, how often, for one good reason or another, have your activities gone astray from the plan? You are not alone.
Jan 2015

Forest Changes in the Altay


In central Siberia, old growth forests are threatened by illegal logging. Finding these sites by foot is an overwhelming task, and researchers turn to the skies, using satellites, in their conservation efforts.
Jan 2015

Forest birds in the sacred forests of Yunnan, China: what do they need for habitat?


Sacred forests in southwest China's Yunnan Province are keystone structure for forest birds of conservation concern. Jodi Brandt and Eric Wood set out to better understand what characteristics of the forest promote bird communities.
Jan 2015

The dynamic habitat index and biodiversity in Thailand


Biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate, often due to habitat degradation and loss. To help optimize conservation planning and monitoring, Naparat Suttidate has developing and testing an easy method to predict biodiversity in Thailand based on remote sensing data.
Mar 2014

Where should we burn? Prioritizing prescribed fire in Wisconsin


Controlled burning is one of the most effective tools for restoring grasslands and savannas across the Midwest. But there are many more lands needing burning than there are resources available.
Mar 2014

Recreational trails are affecting bird reproduction


We might be loving our wildlife habitat to death. Research by Max Henschell, a PhD student, has found that recreational enjoyment of protected areas may be impacting birds.
Mar 2014

Change in alpine wetlands of Southwest China and its implications for wintering Black-necked Cranes


After a period of increase, Black-necked Cranes have been in decline at Napahai wetland since 2000. These patterns appear linked to the growth of the nearby city of Shangri-La.
Mar 2014

Using Land Use Change Projections to Estimate Threats to Freshwater Ecoystems


Freshwater ecosystems are essential for humans and biodiversity, yet they threatened by human activities. Sebastian Martinuzzi's study assessed the consequences of future land use change on freshwater ecosystems in the US.
Mar 2014

The role of ecosystem services in park-people relationships: The case of Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve in southwest China


Understanding the factors influencing people's perceptions of a protected area is a win-win solution for biodiversity conservation and sustainable local people livelihoods.
Jan 2014

The importance of riparian forests to conservation and landscape connectivity in temperate Chile


Land use change and forest fragmentation are a worldwide problem. Isabel Rojas-Viada is employing a novel solution by focusing on riparian forest corridors in Chile.
Jan 2014

Forest degradation in Mexico and spectral mixture analysis


Forests of Mexico are under threat due to development, both for urban and agricultural purposes. However, it is not clear the spatial and temporal extent to which this is happening. SILVIS PhD candidate, Carlos Ramirez Reyes is exploring this using remote sensing data, and a novel method, spectral mixture analysis.
Jan 2014

People's attitudes toward protected areas matter - but at what scale?


Attitudes of people living in close proximity to protected areas can reflect on the effectiveness of management strategies within their borders, and understanding the spatial scale at which these perceptions occur may help to focus conservation efforts.
Jan 2014

The potential effects of extreme weather events on bird reproductive output


Extreme weather events are expected to increase in the future. Extreme weather could result in population declines if these strike during the breeding season for North American passerines.
Jan 2014

It is getting weirder - extreme events in satellite records


Extreme weather events are becoming both more frequent and intense. These events could be shifting bird numbers and their normal distributions in the United States. Ultimately, these weather events could lead to the extinction of highly-sensitive species.
Jan 2014

Do birds track climate or weather?


Brooke Bateman examines if fine scale weather data provides more information for modeling bird distributions than long-term climate data.
Jan 2014

Helping to train the next generation of conservation scientists: running the IGERT on biodiversity conservation in novel ecosystems


Research topics range from economics to entomology, and research locations literally span the globe. Some might call administering such a grant challenging, but to Shelley Maxted, it's a treat.
Feb 2013

Where will novel ecosystems in the United States exist in the future?


Novel ecosystems, ecosystems with strong human influence are an important new challenge for ecology. Will these ecosystems increase in number in the future? Where?
Feb 2013

Future land use changes and their potential impact on the Nation's areas of biodiversity significance


Sebastian Martinuzzi investigates how future land use changes in the United States could impact the Nation's areas of biodiversity significance, with help from economic-based scenarios
Feb 2013

Conservation conflicts: Housing growth in conservation priority areas in Wisconsin


Sarah Carter uses projections of future housing development to identify those sites requiring immediate conservation attention in order to successfully conserve Wisconsin's biodiversity.
Feb 2013

Always on the bright side of life: removing clouds and their shadows in satellite imagery


Satellite imagery provides invaluable information regarding land cover features over time. However, since many satellite-based image sensors cannot see through clouds, imagery researchers need to screen cloudy pixels from cloud-free pixels in order to analyze land change through time.
Feb 2013

Hot moments for biodiversity conservation - Social and political transitions as opportunities for conservation


When it comes to creating protected areas for conservation, ecologists tend to focus on the where. However, to establish new protected areas, the question of when may be just as important.
Jan 2013

Oases along the flyway: Identifying stopover sites for migratory birds in the southeastern U.S.


How do you find stopover habitat of migrants moving under the cover of night? David La Puma uses weather radar to see in the dark and identify sites across the southeastern U.S.
Jan 2013

It's all a game - Land Use and Conservation in everyone's hands


What if someone told you that you could be of great help to science in general and conservation in particular and have fun at the same time? Forward Trails is a Massive Multiplayer Online Game that allows you to do just that!
Jan 2013

Assessing landscape suitability for reintroduction of American marten (Martes americana) using an agent-based model


Identifying potential sites for the successful reintroduction of a species is difficult. Post-doc Steve Wangen applies an agent-based method to the reintroduction of the American marten into northern Wisconsin.
Jan 2013

Massaging the U.S. Census to look at the WUI and at housing growth trends


Dave Helmers sits down with me and gives the skinny on how he turns U.S. Census data into ecologically relevant products for answering some of the most pressing questions in land-change conservation science.
Jan 2013

Housing development is eroding the value of protected lands


Locations in and around natural areas are especially appealing for housing development. Unfortunately, this development may have undesirable consequences.
Jan 2013

How are birds breeding in New England affected by the weather?


Do we know how climate change and extreme weather conditions affect wildlife in particular bird populations?
Jan 2013

The extinction of the Caucasian bison to the creation of a new subspecies


The Caucasian subspecies of the European bison almost went extinct. Today a few herds roam again in the Caucasus Mountains, Russia, and we are collaborating with German and Russian scientists who are modeling habitat for future reintroductions.
Jan 2013

Monitoring of deforestation and forest degradation in Mexico


Carlos Ramirez Reyes develops a way to monitor deforestation in Mexico using satellite images from 1990 to present.
Jan 2013

Park-people relationships: are we using a glass half empty approach?


Protected area conservation is dependent to some extent on the goodwill of communities living around them. This is especially true in a developing country context, where people can pose a threat because they rely on these areas for their day to day needs, such as fuelwood and food. Teri Allendorf is working to understanding how local residents value the protected areas they live near.
Jan 2013

Forest Songbirds and Extreme Weather: How do Drought, Heat Waves, and Cold Snaps Affect Birds?


Global climate change is increasing the incidence of extreme weather events. Jessica Gorzo, PhD candidate, is studying how these extreme events are affecting the abundance, geographical distribution, and breeding habits of forest songbirds.
Jan 2013

Understanding where we've been: implications of land-use legacies in the Carpathians for future conservation and planning initiatives


Not knowing how land has been used in the past makes it difficult to understand how it is being used now and even more difficult to predict how it will be used in the future, especially in regions with multiple socio-economic shocks, such aslike the Carpathian Basin. Our team is working on that.
Jan 2013

Necessity spawns plasticity: Siberian Cranes abandon specialist foraging behaviors after an extreme flood event


James Burnham builds on his research at Poyang Lake following a 4-month stint in the field. During the winter of 2010/2011, he saw birds he has been studying for years in unexpected places and behaviors never before documented.
Aug 2011

Magic inspires science: documenting forest pattern change in Mexico's Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve and what it means for its biodiversity and its people


Dr. Oscar Cardenas is working to better understand patterns of forest change in the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve to develop more effective management tools addressing a range of issues from biodiversity conservation to sustainable development programs and epidemiological applications.
Aug 2011

Do we help birds when we help butterflies? Effects of oak savanna restoration for Karner blue butterfly on savanna bird communities


The Karner blue butterfly, a federally endangered species, has suffered major population declines mainly due to habitat loss since European settlement. Eric Wood investigated if restoration of oak savannas, critical habitat for this species, also provides an opportunity to protect important avian communities that use sparse canopy oak savannas during the breeding season.
Aug 2011

Going, going, going - gone! The loss of alpine meadows in Yunnan


Jodi Brandt studies mountain ecosystem succession in China. This loss of alpine pastures affects both people and biodiversity. Which factors are responsible for these changes?
Aug 2011

Habitat connectivity of European Bison in the Carpathians- bringing together subpopulations of an almost extinct species in the wild


Landscape connectivity analysis could help to bring back the almost extinct population of European Bison in the Carpathians. Elzbieta Laszczak research on habitat connectivity indicates where to fill the gaps for successful connection of different bison herds thereby reducing inbreeding.
Aug 2011

Change in and near Kavkaskzy Nature Reserve in the Caucasus Mountains


Eugenia Bragina has started an exciting new project to understand land cover changes in and around nature reserves in Russia, and how these changes affect wildlife populations.
Jul 2011

Housing Growth, Conservation Corridors, and the United States National Wildlife Refuge System


Across the US, hundreds of wildlife refuges conserve migratory birds, endangered species and their habitats. However, their relative pristine nature also attracts development and that may hamper the very conservation goals the refuges were designed to achieve.
Jul 2011

Deforestation patterns in Mexico, and the effectiveness of payments for ecosystem services programs


If poverty leads to deforestation in Mexico, can we prevent deforestation by paying landowners to sustainably manage forest? Carlos Ramirez Reyes is trying to answer this question using remotely sensed data.
Jul 2011

How are fires in western Mexico affecting hummingbirds?


Professor Sarahy Contreras has been studying hummingbirds in western Mexico for nearly 20 years. Her current project tackles the question of how different frequencies and intensities of post-fires affect hummingbird populations in the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve.
Jul 2011

Conservation planning for two of Wisconsin's most treasured landscapes: the Baraboo Hills and the Northwest pine barrens


Sarah Carter has been working on Wisconsin conservation issues for more than 10 years. Her current project asks how we can identify conservation priorities in some of Wisconsin's most treasured landscapes, including the Baraboo Hills and the Northwest Wisconsin pine barrens.
Nov 2010

Weaving the conservation landscape: habitat connectivity and the future of the National Wildlife Refuge System


Could land use change threaten the US National Wildlife Refuge System? PhD student Chris Hamilton uses cutting-edge technologies to find an answer.
Nov 2010

Land-cover change, people and jaguars - remote sensing or close sensing?


Oscar Cardenas, an invited scientist in the SILVIS Lab, is working on the zoning of a biosphere reserve in Mexico where he studying jaguar habitat in order to assure the species presence for the future. While doing so, he's faced with social issues that are intrinsically and deeply related with natural resources protection and preservation and raise some new research questions.
Sep 2010

Institutional change and logging in post-Soviet Russia


After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, privatization of timber firms was expected to provide an efficient mechanism for the management of forest resources in Russia. Kelly Wendland analyzes how economic factors have impacted harvesting since transition and explores whether weak governance effected investment decisions in European Russia.
Aug 2010

Patterns and processes of agricultural abandonment in Eastern Europe


Alexander Prishchepov is looking at region in Eastern Europe that allows constructing and testing hypothesis about land use changes in a transition from command to market economy.
Aug 2010

Modeling habitat use patterns of critically endangered Siberian Cranes and other wintering waterbirds in Poyang Lake, People's Republic of China


Poyang Lake, one of China's most diverse wildlife areas, increasingly faces shifting use patterns and new threats to the wildlife and human communities who call it home. Ph.D. candidate James Burnham seeks to understand how changing lake hydro-dynamics and human impacts affect the local wildlife, particularly the critically endangered Siberian Crane.
Aug 2010

If you build it, they will come - but can you still conserve biodiversity?


If you build it, they will come is a cliche, to say the least. In the context of parks, recreation trails, and conservation of biodiversity, Marty Pfeiffer offers a new twist on the old cliche: If they come, can you still conserve biodiversity?
Aug 2010

The potential of image texture for measuring vertical vegetation structure


Vegetation structure is an important habitat attribute characterizing bird habitat. Measuring vegetation structure in the field is time consuming and thus inefficient across large scales. Eric Wood is exploring whether use of a metric called image texture derived from satellite and aerial images can potentially streamline the process of assessing vegetation structure and facilitate prediction of bird distribution across large areas.
Aug 2010

Land use scenarios and effects on bird habitat in Northern Wisconsin


Trends in land use, and in turn wildlife habitat loss, are closely interlinked with economics. Predicting forest bird diversity under different simulated land use scenarios, including both ecological and economic parameters, improves our understanding of the effects and drivers of habitat loss.
Aug 2010

Something hit me: Moose movement and vehicle collisions in northern Sweden


In Sweden, moose are a national symbol, a major game species - and a hazard for car travel, with some 4,500 accidents per year. SILVIS researcher Wiebke Neumann is studying the patterns of moose movement and accident rates in order to improve safety to both moose and people.
Aug 2010

Simulating future land use across the United States


Dave Helmers and collaborators are using Open Source software tools in an NSF funded study predicting future land use change across the U.S.
Jul 2010

Things aren't as they used to be: forest disturbance, birds, and the shifting baseline syndrome


Can a bumper sticker inspire innovative research? In the case of Chad Rittenhouse PhD, a chance sighting motivated an innovative line of research that questions how changes occur in the natural world and how we perceive and measure these changes.
Jul 2010

Zoning has heterogeneous effects on housing growth, but in most cases is not strong enough to affect ecosystem functions


Is zoning an appropriate tool to protect lakes? Van Butsic answered this question for a study region in Northern Wisconsin. He found out that zoning is only effective on lakes with a certain baseline development. One size fits all zoning is ineffective.
Jul 2010

Urban Sprawl Supports Rapid Invasions By Non-Native Plant Species


Plant invasions often occur near human settlements, but how can we quantify them? Gregorio Gavier Pizarro mapped the expansion of Glossy privet, an invasive tree, over a period of 23 years in central Argentina. He found that this species has been spreading rapidly, and urban sprawl has a major role in this process.
Feb 2010

Can Wisconsin's Wood Warblers Cope With the Loss of Oaks?


The woodlands of the upper Midwest are undergoing a major transformation as oak forests and savannas are being replaced by maples. How will this transformation affect Wisconsin wildlife, such as our colorful migrant wood warblers? A field team led by SILVIS researcher and graduate student Eric Wood is trying to find out.
Jan 2010

The Legacy of Past Housing Patterns is Important to Explain Today's Plant Invasions


How important is the past to understand present plant invasions? Gregorio Gavier Pizarro recently found that plant invasions may depend more on historic housing and road patterns than on today's urban sprawl. To the contrary, contemporary forest fragmentation explained invasions better than fragmentation legacies.
Jan 2010