Current Lab Members
Paul Lukacs grew up in New Jersey but headed west to attend school at the University of Montana intending to become a fuzzy mammal biologist. He filled his schedule with math and computer science electives instead and hasn’t looked back. He has a PhD in fishery and wildlife biology from Colorado State University and worked as a biometrician for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife for six years, proving statistical support to both research and management biologists. He returned to the University of Montana in 2011 as an associate professor of quantitative wildlife biology. His research interests focus on the development of quantitative methods and their application to ecological problems, primarily wildlife population dynamics. He strives to connect mathematical theory to on-the-ground problems, improving wildlife management and testing ecological theory along the way. He has worked on everything from mule deer population dynamics to cruise ship collisions with humpback whales. When he’s not working, Lukacs can be found hunting, fishing, hiking or skiing - though chances are he’s still thinking about statistics no matter the season.
Josh Nowak, Research Scientist
Josh Nowak has a tendency to make his hobbies harder than they have to be: playing hockey goalie, archery hunting and working in statistics and computer coding. He grew up fishing and hunting in Michigan and then spent five years in the U.S. Navy as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician. He does a little less parachuting these days but still brings the same attention to detail and love of problem solving to his current role as a research scientist at the University of Montana. His goal is to make cutting-edge statistical tools more accessible and applicable to everyday wildlife management. He does this by creating tools for data exploration and easy-to-use web interfaces that provide wildlife managers with a suite of high-performance statistical models that make the most of data. Josh earned a Bachelor’s Degree in wildlife biology from the University of Montana and then a PhD from Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada. There, frustrated by a lack of statistical software packages capable of answering his many questions about population dynamics, he started teaching himself computer coding and Bayesian statistics and set out to build his own. He joined the Lukacs lab as a postdoc in 2012.
Colter Chitwood, Research Scientist
Colter Chitwood grew up hunting, fishing and exploring the woods and waters of northwest Georgia. His early love of the outdoors led to a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences at the University of North Carolina in 2005. Following graduation, he landed a job at the largest carpet company in the world doing project management and process improvement analyses for customer service. Two years later, feeling the draw of graduate school and wildlife ecology, he began a master's in fisheries and wildlife sciences at North Carolina State University. He graduated in 2010, stayed at NCSU to complete his PhD (2014) and then transitioned into his first postdoc position there too. During his eight years in North Carolina, his projects covered an array of topics, including white-tailed deer physiology, deer-coyote predator-prey dynamics, wildlife disease, habitat management, prescribed fire and human dimensions. In 2015, he joined the Millspaugh Lab at the University of Missouri where he oversaw research on the restored Missouri elk population. When the Millspaugh Lab moved to the University of Montana in 2016, Colter jumped at the chance to live in his favorite state. In 2019, he joined the Lukacs Lab as a research scientist, where he is collaborating with Alaska Department of Fish and Game to estimate gray wolf abundance on Prince of Wales Island using camera trap data.
Charles Henderson, PhD Student
Charles Henderson’s research interests center on the ecology of mammals and applying quantitative methods to management issues. He is interested in developing criteria that will help wildlife managers prioritize which information to collect concerning their populations and questions of interest and is also interested in assessing the costs and benefits of different data collection techniques. He is currently collaborating with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to develop cost-effective methods for monitoring and estimating ungulate populations. His 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.
Molly McDevitt, PhD Student
Molly McDevitt's research interests lie in developing and improving tools for effectively understanding the populations we, as ecologists, study through the application of mathematical models to biological systems. Her work aims to positively impact on-the-ground wildlife conservation efforts by providing more precise and useful population estimates to make informed conservation decisions. Molly grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and earned a B.S. in environmental sciences from the University of Oregon. After college, she worked on a range of wildlife field research projects (usually ones that kept her moving A LOT) as well as working as an educator with various natural science education programs. In 2019, Molly earned an M.S. at the University of Montana's Wildlife Biology Program and in partnership with Idaho Department of Fish and Game work on a project to develop analytical and field methods for monitoring mountain goats - a difficult-to-study and low-density species. Molly's PhD work takes her to South Dakota and Montana, where she is studying pronghorn movement and ecology. In addition to expanding her knowledge of large scale wildlife ecology, she is excited to dive into the management of large data sets gathered from GPS collar information. In her spare time, Molly enjoys biking, walking through copious amounts of fresh snow and slowly trail running.
Anna Moeller, PhD Student
Anna Moeller first joined the Quantitative Wildlife Ecology Lab as a master’s student after earning a B.S. in biology from the University of Puget Sound. Now a doctoral student, Anna is interested in exploring new statistical methods to address more complex questions than scientists have ever been able to ask before. Currently, she is researching the population-level consequences of how mule deer and white-tailed deer interact with each other and their environment. She previously developed new ways to survey wildlife using remote cameras. As an alternative to aerial surveys for elk and deer, these noninvasive methods can help reduce wildlife agencies’ costs and are safer for biologists. Plus, the demographic information they provide can be used to inform management decisions and population dynamics models. Anna grew up in Boise, Idaho, but has lived and worked in five Western states. When she’s not contemplating statistics, she’s fly-fishing, backpacking or playing the flute.
Gus Geldersma, M.S. Student
Gus Geldersma grew up in Lowell, Michigan, but moved to Missoula to study wildlife biology at the University of Montana. As a master’s student, he is collaborating with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to develop a survey method using fixed-wing aerial surveys and camera traps to estimate deer abundance in a complex terrain landscape in Western South Dakota. He will also use cameras to estimate herd composition of elk in the Black Hills of South Dakota. His previous camera-trapping experiences include elk in Idaho and weasels in Seeley Lake, Montana. He’s also worked on a snowshoe hare mark-recapture project in Western Montana, studied elk calf cause-specific mortality on the West and East Fork of the Bitterroot River in Montana and been a big game research technician working with elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn and mountain lions in western South Dakota. In between expeditions, he’s hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing or playing hockey.
Jessica Krohner, M.S. Student
Hailing from Massachusetts, Jessica Krohner has crisscrossed the globe for fieldwork, from the ocean waters off British Columbia to the crop fields of Uganda. Jessica earned a B.S. in wildlife biology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She has worked with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for the last three years on a non-invasive wolf and cougar population monitoring study across the state. As a master’s student, she is working with IDFG and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to determine fisher occupancy across their Northern Rocky Mountain range, with a focus on determining the extent of fisher habitat use in drier forest types at the edge of their known range (i.e. lots of camera traps!). In her downtime, she likes to hike, garden, read and, most importantly, revel in good food.