Human mediated changes in landscape over a relatively short amount of time (e.g., <100 years; see the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment) have impacted many species throughout the world. Our research is focused largely on avian conservation-based questions that address how these changes affect wildlife, primarily at the level of populations and species. Combining knowledge of geographic distribution and ecology, historical and current, we can preserve natural systems by identifying those factors important for maintaining a viable population such as habitat requirements, behavioral limitations, breeding system, seasonal movements, and evolutionary history.
Current research primarily addresses conservation issues related to grouse (Family: Phasianidae) and birds of prey (Families: Falconidae, Accipitridae, Cathartidae), and on occasion we have been known to work on projects focused on other groups, including mammals and arthropods. We work directly with both government and nongovernmental organizations to help incorporate current genetic and ecological-based methods into active conservation programs.
In our research we often utilize tissue samples collected from contemporary populations. However, due to difficulties in obtaining adequate sample sizes or collecting rare taxa in geographically inaccessible localities, we also employ museum specimens for assessing phenotypic and genetic variability. Some of our projects would not have been possible without access to museum specimens, and such studies further demonstrate the absolute importance of natural history collections in helping inventory biodiversity and aiding conservation efforts.