Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Landscape Ecology, Community Ecology, Conservation Biology, Biodiversity
Past and Current Research
Neotropical Bats and Landscape Ecology
The relationship between Neotropical bats and different proportions and configurations of fragmented tropical forest were assessed at locations in the Amazon basin of northeastern Peru. Data on bats species presence and abundance were collected from multiple sites along a highway being constructed (representing a gradient of environmental deterioration), southwest of the city of Iquitos (see image to the right). Measurements of landscape structure were quantified at multiple circular focal scales the using satellite imagery and spatial analysis software. Scale-dependent, guild specific and season-dependent relationships to landscape structure were identified (Klingbeil & Willig 2009, 2010). [Funding: NSF, NIH]
Metacommunity Structure of Gastropods along Elevational Gradients
The roles that elevation (i.e., its environmental correlates) and forest type play in structuring terrestrial gastropod communities (and metacommunities) were evaluated with data collected from sites established every 50 m along two transects between 300 - 1000m a.s.l. in the the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. Metacommunity structure of gastropods differed between the transect that contained elevational variation in forest type and the transect that did not (Willig et al. 2011). In a separate investigation, analyses indicated that contrary to most previous work with metacommunity structure along elevational gradients, the primary axis of correspondence did not represent a response to elevation (Presley et al. 2011). [Funding: NSF, LTER]
Statewide Biodiversity Monitoring Network: Acoustic Monitoring for Bats and Birds in Connecticut’s Interior Forest
Twenty interior forest sites dispersed throughout the State of Connecticut were selected to monitor bird and bat populations with autonomous recording units (ARUs). Five ARUs were deployed at each site and programmed to record acoustic vocalizations (i.e., birds) during the hours following sunrise and ultrasonic vocalizations (i.e., bats) during the hours following sunset each day for a number of months during the spring and summer. Vocalizations will be identified to species with bioacoustics software and automated identification algorithms. Relationships of particular species and biodiversity with habitat characteristics (e.g., structural heterogeneity, understory heterogeneity, canopy cover, elevation) at the local scale and landscape structure at multiple spatial scales (e.g., percent cover of each land use type in the landscape, patch area, patch density, interspersion, edge density) will be evaluated for bats and birds.
This project addresses a number of critical issues that hinder effective management and conservation planning:
- Many forest species are widely distributed across large areas, making the areas that should be targeted for conservation difficult to identify without a broad geographic perspective.
- Necessary data on where species occur are lacking at relevant spatial scales, making it difficult to perform analyses that could target sites to fulfill conservation priorities.
- Long-term monitoring of species is necessary to distinguish natural population cycles from responses to habitat change, anthropogenic disturbance or climate change.
- A landscape perspective is necessary for understanding how continued fragmentation and land use change will affect biodiversity and how conservation decisions can minimize negative consequences for wildlife species, especially those with greatest conservation need (GCN).
Data about the spatial distribution of birds and bats in forested landscapes of Connecticut will provide critical information for biodiversity conservation, and will facilitate wise management of habitats associated with high diversity or particular GCN species. Moreover, we will be able to ascertain which landscape features are most associated with the incidence of particular taxa. This work will evaluate the utility of a newly emerging technology (ARUs) to accurately document the presence of species, and assess the extent to which it can represent a cost-effective and complementary approach to intensive field sampling. Equally important, this project will assist in the identification of sites or the landscape characteristics of sites that would be useful for attaining conservation goals (e.g., preservation of GCN species). [Funding: Audubon Connecticut]
Klingbeil, B.T., and M.R. Willig. 2009. Guild-specific responses of bats to landscape composition and configuration in fragmented Amazonian rainforest. Journal of Applied Ecology 46:203-213.
Klingbeil, B.T., and M.R. Willig. 2010. Seasonal differences in population-, ensemble-, and community-level responses of bats to landscape structure in Amazonia. Oikos 119:1654-1664.
Presley, S. J., M. R. Willig, C. P. Bloch, I. Castro-Arellano, C. L. Higgins, and B. T. Klingbeil. 2011. A complex metacommunity structure for gastropods along an elevational gradient. Biotropica 43:480-488.
Willig, M. R., S. J. Presley, C. P. Bloch, I. Castro-Arellano, L. M. Cisneros, C. L. Higgins, and B. T. Klingbeil. 2011. Tropical metacommunities and elevational gradients: disentangling effects of forest type from other elevational factors. Oikos 120:1497-1508.
Bachelor of Science. 2001. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Biology, Philosophy major.
Master of Science. 2007. Texas Tech University. Biological Sciences. Michael R. Willig, Advisor. Thesis title: Response of Bats to Landscape Structure in Amazonian Forest: An Analysis at Multiple Scales. PDF
Doctor of Philosophy. In Progress. University of Connecticut. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Dr. Michael R. Willig, Advisor.
2006. The Graduate School, Texas Tech University, Summer Research Award $2,300
2009. American Society of Mammalogists, Grants-in-Aid of Research. $1000
2009. American Society of Mammalogists, Elizabeth Horner Award (best graduate proposal). $500
2010. Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of Connecticut, Multidisciplinary Environmental Research Award. $7000
2010. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and CT Museum of Natural History, Ralph M. Wetzel Vertebrate Research Award. $900
2011. National Science Foundation, University of Connecticut, Northeast Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Mentoring Fellowship. $3000
Ecological Society of America
American Ornithologists' Union
American Society of Mammalogists
Association of Field Ornithologists
Cooper Ornithological Society