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Dr. Dan Thornton's Mammal Spatial Ecology and Conservation Lab


Students interested in joining the lab should send a letter of interest to Dr. Thornton (, outlining your research interests and goals, and how they fit within the type of work that is conducted in this lab. Please also include a CV with relevant information (e.g., GPA/GRE scores).



Meghan is using newly developed field and statistical techniques to assess mule and white-tailed deer density and habitat use in Colville National Forest (northeastern Washington) using camera traps. Results from this work will be used to inform forest management practices in Colville National Forest, develop large-scale/long-term monitoring techniques for deer in heavily forested environments, and test hypotheses regarding niche segregation of mule and white-tailed deer.


Peter Olsoy: Peter Olsoy is working on a PhD project using remote sensing and GIS to examine the scales that wildlife select and use habitat. Evaluating habitat quality, and predicting the consequences of habitat change, requires identifying habitat features that influence risks of starvation and predation. He is using terrestrial LiDAR and unmanned aerial vehicles to map structural and dietary quality of sagebrush habitat for pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) and sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Further analysis of animal movement will explore how scale influences selection.



Lucy is examining the impacts of hunting on Neotropical carnivores and other mammals in the Maya Biosphere Reserve of northern Guatemala. Lucy is also using camera traps to generate indices of large mammal community health at large-scales, which can be linked to disturbances like land cover and hunting. Lucy is collaborating with the Wildlife Conservation Society to implement her research. Lucy is the recipient of a WCS Graduate Research Fellowship, and secured a Rufford Grant to support her work.



Michelle is studying the influence of puma carcasses on nutrient cycling in the Grand Tetons, as part of work conducted with the Panthera Teton Cougar Project. She plans to try and scale-up nutrient changes seen in the vicinity of carcasses to understanding the impact of carcasses on the larger landscape. Michelle is the recipient of a Kaplan Graduate Scholarship.




Paul is studying snowshoe hare densities in several areas of central and western Washington. Paul is testing various techniques for determining hare densities, including camera-traps, pellet counts, and live-trapping. Paul will take data on hare density and occupancy and link that data to remotely sensed LIDAR images to try and generate landscape scale predictive models of abundance of this keystone boreal forest species. Paul’s work is occurring in conjunction with the Washington Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service.



Kelsey is working to understand the impacts of human recreation on wildlife activity, detection, and distribution. As non-consumptive forms of recreation increase on public lands, there is a pressing need to understand how human presence impacts wildlife communities. Kelsey is using game cameras to examine these impacts on National Forest lands in eastern Washington.


Logan is studying the predator-prey ecology of hoary marmots in North Cascades National Park. Marmots have experienced substantial declines over the past couple of decades, and Logan’s work will inform an understanding of the distribution and diet of carnivores in the alpine environment that is home to marmots. Logan is also investigating how snow cover and depth impact distribution of species along elevational gradients. This work is occurring in collaboration with the National Park Service and the Cascades Carnivore Project. Logan is a recipient of a Northwest Climate Science Center Fellowship.


Erik is studying the use of army cutworm moths by grizzly bears in Glacier National Park. Moths, which migrate to high elevation talus slopes in the summer, are a potentially important food source for bears, but the degree of use of moths by bears, and where it occurs on the Glacier landscape, remains poorly known. Through a combination of aerial surveys, high elevation field work, and stable isotope analysis, Erik is seeking to fill in this gap in knowledge to support Grizzly management. This work is occurring in collaboration with the Glacier Park Conservancy. Erik is the recipient of a Jerry O’Neal Scholarship.


Alissa is studying lynx distribution and abundance in Glacier National Park. Lynx maintain a peripheral population in Glacier, but the status of the population, and the habitats that are selected in Glacier, remain poorly understood. Alissa will be using a large-scale camera trapping array to answer these questions, working in some truly remote and mountainous terrain.



Anna is studying the niche and foraging ecology of mule and white-tailed deer. Mule-deer are declining in Washington, while white-tail deer appear to be increasing, though the cause of this remains poorly known. Using captive trials, Anna will determine differences in how these two wide-ranging deer species select for plant species for forage. Anna will also use a large-scale dataset from camera-traps to examine how the species partition space, in particular aspects of topography and cover, and respond to forest treatments.


Katie Van, MS (graduated May 2015): Thesis title: Species distribution modeling of high-elevation pine species to examine potential impacts of climate change.

Arthur Scully, MS (graduated May 2016): Thesis title: Influence of biotic interactions on Canada lynx distribution along their southern range edge.

Kyle Ebenhoch, MS (graduated Fall 2017): Thesis title: Comparing population vital rates of resident and translocated greater sage-grouse on the Yakima Training Center, Yakima, WA.

Landon Charlo, MS (graduated Summer 2018): Thesis title: Influence of artificial canopy gaps on wildlife and understory in young coastal temperate coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest

Travis King, MS (graduated Spring 2019): Thesis title: Broad-scale influence of biotic and abiotic drivers of carnivore occupancy in Washington