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Lab Members

Paul M. Lukacs
Associate Professor
Quantitative Wildlife Ecology

My research interests focus on development and application of quantitative methods to ecological problems, primarily in wildlife population dynamics.  I strive to connect ecological theory to wildlife management problems and in doing so improve wildlife management and test ecological theory.  My work crosses a broad spectrum of taxa from rare seabirds to hunted ungulates.  My current projects include ungulate and grouse population dynamics modeling, whale collision avoidance, and software development.

Prior to joining UM, I served as Biometrician for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for more than five years.  In that role I provided statistical support to both research and management biologists.  I developed an understanding of the types of quantitative support wildlife management agencies need and how to convey those ideas to wildlife managers.  I also work closely with wildlife management agencies to develop computer software that brings the forefront of quantitative methods to the fingertips of wildlife managers.

In my free time, I enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and skiing.  There’s nothing like a flushing grouse or rising trout to help me think more clearly about complicated statistical problems.

Paul M. Lukacs / photo credit Scott M. Gende

Josh Nowak, Post-doctoral Researcher

My research interests lie in the intersection of ecological theory, quantitative ecology and wildlife management.  I am interested in application and development of novel quantitative methods that draw on ecological theory to enhance the quantity and quality of information available to managers.  My graduate studies focused on modeling elk population dynamics in the face of data scarcity and the link between habitat selection and individual performance.  I am currently collaborating with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Panthera to develop spatial population models for mountain lions in Montana.  This project will produce an interactive software tool managers may use to proactively manage lion populations.

Josh Nowak

Rebecca McCaffery, Post-doctoral Researcher

I am interested in developing and using tools in population ecology for the effective monitoring, management and conservation of plant and wildlife species. I completed my PhD in the Wildlife Biology program at the University of Montana in 2010, where I examined how montane Columbia spotted frog populations might be affected by changing and variable snowpack conditions now and into the future. I have worked on a diversity of projects and species, while maintaining a particular affinity for using population models to inform amphibian ecology, management, and conservation. In my current work, I am developing population estimation and demographic modeling methods for the Greater Sage-grouse across its range.

Rebecca McCaffery

Sara H. Williams, Ph. D. Student

I am interested mammalian ecology and conservation. My research efforts have focused on the use of modeling techniques to obtain quantitative ecological data and how this knowledge can inform conservation and management of wildlife populations. I am especially interested in the ways that mammals are affected by human actions and development, and how to mitigate harmful consequences of these interactions. I completed a master’s degree at the University of Vermont, during which I investigated the occurrence of meso-carnivores in forest fragments situated in an agricultural landscape. In the Lukacs lab, I am working on a research project funded by the National Park Service that examines humpback whale and cruise ship encounters in Glacier Bay National Park.

Sara Williams

Charles Henderson, Ph.D. Student

My research interests center on the ecology of mammals and applying quantitative methods to management issues.  I am interested in developing criteria that will help wildlife managers prioritize which information to collect concerning their populations and questions of interest.  I am also interested in assessing the costs and benefits of different data collection techniques.  My previous research focused on predicting migration in a white-tailed deer population based on home range attributes and quantifying the effects of this decision on survival and resource use.  I am looking forward to collaborating with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to develop cost effective methods for monitoring and estimating ungulate populations.

Charles Henderson

Recent Graduates

Anne L. Schaefer, M.S. May 2014

My main research interests are in avian conservation and ecology. I am principally interested in studying species-habitat interactions and their effect on avian population dynamics in order to implement effective management practices. My present research is focused on studying the factors influencing the distribution and abundance of the Kittlitz’s murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) in Icy Bay, Alaska, specifically investigating the relationship between murrelet and ice floe distributions. This project is in collaboration with Michelle Kissling and the USFWS.  Before attending UM, I obtained a B.Sc. in Organismal Biology and a B.A. in Spanish from South Dakota State University.


Anne L. Schaefer

Margaret M. Riordan, M.S. May 2013 

I am very broadly interested in ecology, evolution, and conservation, specifically within the avian taxa.  My current graduate research focuses on evaluating the origin of the observed male biased sex ratio in the mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) population.  I am concentrating on the early portion of the species life cycle, both the egg and chick stage, to evaluate possible factors contributing to variation in survival between males and females.  This study will help provide a better understanding of when a biased sex ratio is arising and possibly why it is occurring in this population.  Results will assist in directing management focus for conservation.   This project is a collaboration with Dr. Victoria Dreitz and is funded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Margaret M. Riordan