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Scientists & Staff

Deahn Donner

Project Leader / Landscape Ecologist
Institute for Applied Ecosystem Studies: Theory and Application of Scaling Science in Forestry
5985 Highway K
Rhinelander, Wisconsin 54501-9128
Phone: 715-362-1146

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Current Research

Current research focuses on (1) applying metapopulation, island biogeography, and gradient theoretical frameworks to examine how spatial and temporal habitat loss and fragmentation from changing land-use patterns affect biodiversity, (2) examining how forest management and restoration activities affect large-scale wildlife dispersal, habitat use, and conservation for multiple species groups to better link and integrate empirical evidence with theory, and (3) understanding the impacts of removing harvest residues (i.e., woody biomass) from native forests on biodiversity and other ecological services these forests provide. Several studies are using long-term monitoring and inventory data to determine how local and landscape factors influence populations (e.g., amphibians in vernal pools, beaver colonization events along trout streams across northern Wisconsin). Results have implications to current best management practices. I'm continuing research on the federally endangered Kirtland's Warbler with most recent activities assessing potential impacts of changing climate on the viability of Kirtland's Warblers by linking habitat and population stressors across winter and breeding grounds (i.e., migratory connectivity and full life-cycle modeling), analyzing 25 years of resighting records to determine short- and long-term dispersal movements during time periods with varying amounts of suitable habitat and populations levels, and how landscape factors have influenced brown-headed cowbirds trapping efficiencies over the past 25 years in Kirltand's Warbler Managerment Areas. I am also working with an interdisciplinary team investigating landscape resistance to movement and dispersal of wide-ranging species using landscape genetic approaches. Landscape genetics link large-scale landscape patterns iwth organism movement to determine how landscape features regulate populations. These approaches are being used to study coyote movements in New York, movement pattern of bats among winter hibernacula and summer roost sites, which also incorporates accoustic monitoring to determine movement patterns immediately following spring emergence. Adaptive genetic approaches are being used to determine resistance to White-Nose Syndrome in bat populations of the northern forest: exploring the critical disease-genotype-microbiome link. I continue to look for opportunities to investigate the impact of fine woody debris (FWD; <6 inches diameter) removal on above and belowground community assemblages, especially in rich soils under regenerating northern hardwood stands. Most recent research is assessing changes to butterfly pollinator diversity during a large-scale Northern Dry Forest and pine barren restoration project; primary objective is to determine how long after restoration activities will the butterfly community resemble surrounding barren's butterfly species assemblages, which incorporates the distance and size of restoration activities.

Research Interests

Conservation and restoration of open lands and early succession habitats and the species that rely on these systems; applying metapopulation, island biogeography, and fragmentation theory to answer critical questions associated with impacts of large-scale land use and cover changes from forest management and human development; using a landscape genetics approach to investigate influence of landscape pattern on population processes

Why This Research is Important

Information gained from the bioenergy studies will provide land managers and policy makers with scientific information they need to evaluate the trade-offs of harvesting woody biomass for energy use or converting lands to hybrid poplars against other ecological services. Advances in metapopulation and biogeogrpahy theory within a habitat fragmentation and landscape resistance context (i.e., landscape genetics) will inform local to international decisions on population conservation and habitat resotration programs. Using long-term monitoring data will be applied to cumulative effects models that evaluate forest managment, and also help assess best management practices. The Kirtland's Warbler research will link expected habitat changes as a result in changing climate to short- and long-term population viability assessments that are required to aid conservation efforts of this endangered population. Results will also be applicable to the expanding topic of 'migratory connectivity'.


  • University of Wisconsin - Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies - Madison, WI, Ph.D. Environmental Studies, 2007
  • University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, M.S. Wildlife Ecology, 1997
  • University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, B.S. Wildlife Ecology, 1988

Professional Experience

  • Research Ecologist Northern Research Station
    2009 - Current
  • Wildlife Biologist Northern Research Station
    1997 - 2009

Professional Organizations

  • The Wildlife Society, Member (2006 - Current)
  • Us-Iale (Landscape Ecology), Member (2005 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • NRS Early Career Scientist Award, 2011
    For pioneering the application of spatial ecology to bio-energy and endangered species research

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Effect of Woody Biomass Removal on Forest Biodiversity and Nutrient Cycling (2012)
Findings represent short-term effects and give a baseline for long-term study

How Large-scale Forest Conditions Influence Northern Goshawk Nesting (2011)
Efforts to better understand nesting habitat requirements of the northern goshawk, a forest-sensitive species in northern Wisconsin, were enhanced by a collaborative research-management project. Forest Service scientists analyzed 10 years of nest survey data from the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest and found that the key determinant of goshawk nest occurrence was the ratio of conifer cover to aspen-birch cover surrounding a potential nest site.

Landscape-scale Effects of Beaver Removal on a Managed Forest (2014)
Beavers and their dams have been removed from Class I and II trout streams within Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest since the late 1980s to restore stream channel integrity and improve trout habitat. A Forest Service scientist and partners evaluated the effectiveness of reducing beaver numbers on managed streams by comparing trends in beaver colony counts using fall flight colony location data from 1987-2013. Although beaver populations declined only on managed streams on the west side of the forest, managed and non-managed streams on the east side of the forest also had declining beaver populations, indicating a system change occurred.

Scientists Discover Earlier Shift in Peak Salamander Numbers at Woodland Ponds (2013)
Forest Service scientists analyzed salamander monitoring data taken at breeding woodland ponds in the early 1990s to mid-2000s and found that the shift in peak salamander numbers, and site-specific warming air and water temperatures, had occurred two weeks earlier. This earlier shift has not been documented previously in the upper Great Lakes region. Their findings contribute to growing evidence that amphibian populations may be some of the early species responding to changing temperature and precipitation trends by shifting spring movement and reproductive efforts. Awareness of how salamander populations are adapting to these changes will help managers adjust activities during vulnerable periods, and help ensure that monitoring activities do not miss peak salamander numbers in the upper Great Lakes region.

Last updated on : 04-Oct-2016