Scientists & Staff
The primary goal of the scientist's research program is to develop an understanding of large-scale spatial and temporal relationships required to manage and restore habitat to conserve wildlife populations. Her research program spans three major themes including spatial ecology and conservation of populations, bioenergy and biodiversity, and landscape restoration of pine barrens and northern dry forests. Given the rate of habitat transformation occurring worldwide, increasing land use pressures, and multiple use direction of the agency, strategic planning for wildlife conservation programs across broader geographic regions will become the standard rather than the exception as increasing numbers of populations become smaller and more isolated. The vulnerability of these remaining populations is compounded by changing environmental conditions. Each species is exposed to and sensitive to these factors differentially, so broad conclusions are not always transferrable across species, or across a species range. Traditional small-scale studies cannot provide the large-scale information needed to determine patterns of adaptive ability to changing conditions, nor how to ensure populations remain functionally connected (i.e., successful breeding) across complex, spatially heterogeneous landscapes. The scientist applies metapopulation, biogeography, movement ecology, landscape ecology, and landscape genetic theoretical frameworks to problems. In addition, the use of forest-based bioenergy is an important component of our national energy strategy. Scaling up these alternative sources of energy from local to regional or national programs remains challenging as well as determining the impacts of biomass to wildlife populations. Last, fire suppression combined with succession has drastically reduced historically open barren and savannah systems, particularly pine barrens and northern dry forest ecosystems in the Lake States region. These systems provide important habitat to many native pollinators that are facing declines.
Specific research projects focus on (1) bat movement ecology and the secondary effects of White-Nose Syndrome, (2) using forest management to mitigate effects of climate change on moose in Minnesota, (3) spatial ecology and Kirtland's Warbler population recovery and conservation, (3) (4) wood turtle movement patterns using landscape genetic approaches, (5) using eDNA to monitor and model habitat occupancy for rare species such as the Lake Sturgeon, (6) assessing forest biodiversity sustainability in northeast United States under various biofuel harvesting scenarios of the 2016 Billion Ton Report, and (7) using fire and silvicultural treatments to optimize barrens and northern dry forest restoration.
Research InterestsConservation 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 ImportantOur Nation's forests and grasslands are natural assets that provide goods and services vital to human health and livelihood. The rate and magnitude of ecological changes brought on by human activity, changing climates, and natural disturbances are increasing rapidly and creating novel conditions within which forest managers must operate to sustain the ecosystem services their lands provide. Landscapes are being modified by shifting land uses, unprecedented environmental conditions, altered fire regimes, pollution, and large-scale insect and disease outbreaks. Understanding the cumulative effects of these processes requires a landscape perspective that integrates time, space and scale. Scale is recognized as a critical concept in ecology. Ecological problems often exist over decades and large ecosystems, but important variables that drive spatial patterns and processes are often measured in small areas or over short periods of time. Moreover, the most pressing land management issues of our day (e.g., timber harvesting, environmental quality, road building, forest fragmentation, and loss of biological diversity) have a spatial component and cannot be resolved by considering them at a single scale. Sustaining our forests and grasslands to be resilient and adaptive in a changing world and improving forest conditions are both desired outcomes of forest management that will also provide necessary wildlife habitat.
- 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
- Research Landscape Ecologist and Project Leader, Northern Research Station 2009 - Current
- Wildlife Biologist, Northern Research Station 1997 - 2009
- The Wildlife Society (2006 - Current)
- International Association for Landscape Ecology - North America (2005 - Current)
Awards & Recognition
- Inspiring Woman Award - Northern Research Station, 2016 In recognition of outreach and partnerships formed with minorities and research
- Wings Across the Americas Conservation Award, 2016 In recognition of research-management partnerships on the multi-scale landscape ecology approach for studying the secondary effects of White-nose Syndrome in bats of the upper Midwest.
- NRS Early Career Scientist Award, 2011 For pioneering the application of spatial ecology to bio-energy and endangered species research
Featured Publications & Products
- Yi, Xueling ; Donner, Deahn M.; Marquardt, Paula E.; Palmer, Jonathan M.; Jusino, Michelle A.; Frair, Jacqueline ; Lindner, Daniel L.; Latch, Emily K. 2020. Major histocompatibility complex variation is similar in little brown bats before and after white‐nose syndrome outbreak. Ecology and Evolution
- Banner, Katharine M.; Irvine, Kathryn M.; Rodhouse, Thomas J.; Donner, Deahn ; Litt, Andrea R. 2019. Statistical power of dynamic occupancy models to identify temporal change: Informing the North American Bat Monitoring Program. Ecological Indicators
- Donner, Deahn M.; Wigley, T. Bently; Miller, Darren A. 2017. Forest biodiversity and woody biomass harvesting. In: Efroymson, R.A.; Langholtz, M.H.; Johnson, K.E.; Stokes, B.J., eds. Advancing domestic resources for a thriving bioeconomy, volume 2: Environmental sustainability effects of select scenarios from volume 1. ORNL/TM-2016/727. Oak Ridge, TN: U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory: 398-447. Chapter 11. https://doi.org/10.2172/1338837.
- Bocetti, Carol I.; Donner, Deahn M.; Mayfield, Harold F. 2014. Kirtland's warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii) [revised]. The birds of North America online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Ornithology Lab. http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/019/articles/introduction (accessed July 28, 2014.)
- Donner, Deahn M.; Anderson, Dean; Eklund, Daniel; St.Pierre, Matthew. 2013. Large-scale forest composition influences northern goshawk nesting in Wisconsin. Journal of Wildlife Management 77(3): 495-504.
- Donner, Deahn M.; Ribic, Christine A.; Probst, John R. 2010. Patch dynamics and the timing of colonization-abandonment events by male Kirtland's Warblers in an early succession habitat. Biological Conservation. 143: 1159-1167.
- Ribic, Christine A.; Rugg, David J.; Donner, Deahn M.; Beck, Albert J.; Byers, BJ. 2016. The Moquah Barrens Research Natural Area: Loss of a pine barrens ecosystem. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-161. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 25 p.
- Wolcott, Daniel M.; Donner, Deahn M.; Brown, Donald J.; Ribic, Christine A. 2018. Kirtland's warbler winter habitat changes across the Bahamian Archipelago in response to future climate-condition scenarios. Caribbean Naturalist. 49: 1-20.
- Stricker, Heather K.; Gehring, Thomas M.; Donner, Deahn ; Petroelje, Tyler. 2019. Multi-scale habitat selection model assessing potential gray wolf den habitat and dispersal corridors in Michigan, USA. Ecological Modelling
- Brown, Donald J.; Donner, Deahn M.; Ribic, Christine A.; Bocetti, Carol I. 2019. Influence of climate change and postdelisting management on long‐term population viability of the conservation‐reliant Kirtland's Warbler. Ecology and Evolution
Publications & Products
- Adams, Samuel I; Donner, Deahn M. 2021. Opportunity areas for expanding Kirtland's warbler nesting habitat in Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Res. Map NRS-12. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station.
- Quigley, Kathleen M.; Kolka, Randall ; Sturtevant, Brian R.; Dickinson, Matthew B.; Kern, Christel C.; Donner, Deahn M.; Miesel, Jessica R. 2020. Prescribed burn frequency, vegetation cover, and management legacies influence soil fertility: Implications for restoration of imperiled pine barrens habitat. Forest Ecology and Management
- Berkman, Leah K.; Frair, Jacqueline L.; Marquardt, Paula E.; Donner, Deahn M.; Kilgo, John C.; Whipps, Christopher M. 2019. Spatial genetic analysis of coyotes in New York State. Wildlife Society Bulletin
- Quigley, K.M. ; Wildt, R.E. ; Sturtevant, B.R. ; Kolka, R.K. ; Dickinson, M.B. ; Kern, C.C. ; Donner, D.M. ; Miesel, J.R. 2019. Fuels, vegetation, and prescribed fire dynamics influence ash production and characteristics in a diverse landscape under active pine barrens restoration. Fire Ecology
- Donner, Deahn M.; Brown, Donald J.; Ribic, Christine A.; Nelson, Mark ; Greco, Tim. 2018. Managing forest habitat for conservation-reliant species in a changing climate: The case of the endangered Kirtland's Warbler. Forest Ecology and Management
- Brown, Donald J.; Ribic, Christine A.; Donner, Deahn M.; Nelson, Mark D.; Bocetti, Carol I.; Deloria-Sheffield, Christie M.; Thompson, Des. 2017. Using a full annual cycle model to evaluate long-term population viability of the conservation-reliant Kirtland's warbler after successful recovery. Journal of Applied Ecology
- Ribic, Christine A.; Donner, Deahn M.; Beck, Albert J.; Rugg, David J.; Reinecke, Sue; Eklund, Dan. 2017. Beaver colony density trends on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, 1987-2013. PLOS ONE. 12(1): e0170099-.
- Brown, Donald J.; Nelson, Mark D.; Rugg, David J.; Buech, Richard R.; Donner, Deahn M. 2016. Spatial and temporal habitat-use patterns of wood turtles at the western edge of their distribution. Journal of Herpetology. 50(3): 347-356.
- Donner, Deahn M.; Ribic, Christine A.; Beck, Albert J.; Higgins, Dale; Eklund, Dan; Reinecke, Susan. 2015. Woodland pond salamander abundance in relation to forest management and environmental conditions in northern Wisconsin. Journal of North American Herpetology. 2015(1): 34-42.
- Donner, Deahn M. 2013. [Book review] The Kirtland's Warbler: The Story of a Bird's Fight against extinction and the People Who Saved It . The Auk. 130(2): 393-394.
- Headlee, William L.; Zalesny, Ronald S. Jr.; Donner, Deahn M.; Hall, Richard B. 2013. Using a process-based model (3-PG) to predict and map hybrid poplar biomass productivity in Minnesota and Wisconsin, USA. BioEnergy Research. 6: 196-210.
- Kashian, Daniel M.; Gregory Corace, R.; Shartell, Lindsey M.; Donner, Deahn M.; Huber, Philip W. 2012. Variability and persistence of post-fire biological legacies in jack pine-dominated ecosystems of northern Lower Michigan. Forest Ecology and Management
- Zalesny, Ronald S.; Donner, Deahn M.; Coyle, David R.; Headlee, William L. 2012. An approach for siting poplar energy production systems to increase productivity and associated ecosystem services. Forest Ecology and Management. 284: 45-58.
- Donner, Deahn M.; Ribic, Christine A.; St. Pierre, Matthew; Eklund, Dan. 2011. Impacts of harvesting forest residues for bioenergy on herptofauna and herbaceous plant community assemblages in northern hardwood forests. In: Challenges of managing for early successional forests and associated species. SE and SW chapters of The Wisconsin Society of American Foresters & The Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society; 2011 March 1-3; Wisconsin Dells, WI: 17. Poster abstract.
- Donner, Deahn M.; Ribic, Christine A.; St. Pierre, Matthew; Eklund, Daniel. 2011. Harvesting forest residues for bioenergy influences amphibian and herbaceous plant community assemblages in northern hardwood forests. In: 26th annual landscape ecology symposium. Sustainability in dynamic landscapes; 2011 April 3-7; Portland, Oregon. U.S. International Association for Landscape Ecology: 152. Abstract.
- Kashian, Daniel; Corace, Gregory; Shartell, Lindsey; Donner, Deahn M.; Huber, Philip. 2011. Variability and persistence of post-fire biological legacies in jack pine-dominated ecosystems of northern Lower Michigan. In: 26th annual landscape ecology symposium. Sustainability in dynamic landscapes; 2011 April 3-7; Portland, Oregon. U.S. International Association for Landscape Ecology: 137. Abstract.
- Padley, Eunice A.; Donner, Deahn M.; Fassnacht, Karin S.; Zalesny, Ronald S.; Birr, Bruce; Martin, Karl J. 2011. Managing carbon sequestration and storage in northern hardwood forests. In: Challenges of managing for early successional forests and associated species. SE and SW chapters of The Wisconsin Society of American Foresters & The Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society; 2011 March 1-3; Wisconsin Dells, WI: 37. Poster abstract.
- Probst, John R.; Donner, Deahn M. 2011. Kirtland's Warbler (Setophaga kirtlankii). In: The Second Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas. Kalamazoo Nature Center, Kalamazoo, MI. 5 p. Available at: http://www.mibirdatlas.org/
- Donner, Deahn; Zalesny, Ron. 2010. Potential Land-use changes with Woody Energy Corp Production in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In: US-IALE 25th annual landscape ecology symposium. Is what humans do natural; 2010 April 5-9; Athens, GA.: 51. Abstract.
- Zalesny, R.S. Jr.; Donner, D.M.; Coyle, D.R.; Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B. 2010. An approach for siting poplar energy production systems to increase productivity and associated ecosystem services. In: Fifth international poplar symposium: Poplars and willows: from research models to multipurpose trees for a biobased society; 2010 September 20-25; Orvieto, Italy. IUFRO: 110.
- Donner, Deahn M.; Probst, John R. 2009. A Kirtland's warbler management at regional, landscape, and local scales; 2009 August 25-26; Odanah, WI. In: Midwest jack pine symposium. 2 p.
- Donner, Deahn M.; Ribic, Christine A.; Probst, John R. 2009. Male Kirtland's Warblers' patch-level response to landscape structure during periods of varying population size and habitat amounts. Forest Ecology and Managment. 258: 1093-1101.
- Donner, Deanh M.; Probst, John R.; Ribic, Christine A. 2008. Influence of habitat amount, arrangement, and use on population trend estimates of male Kirtland's warblers. Landscape Ecology. 23: 467-480.
- Probst, John R.; Donner, Deahn M.; Bozek, Michael A. 2007. Continuous, age-related plumage variation in male Kirtland's Warblers. J. Field Ornithol. 78(1):100-108
- Wiese, A.H.; Zalesny, J.A.; Donner, D.M.; Zalesny, Ronald S., Jr. 2006. Bud removal affects shoot, root, and callus development of hardwood Populus cuttings. Silvae Genetica. 55: 141-148.
- Probst, John R.; Donner, Deahn M.; Worland, Mike; Weinrich, Jerry; Huber, Phillip; Ennis, Kenneth R. 2005. Comparing census methods for the endangered Kirtland's Warbler. J. Field Ornithol. 76(1):50?60, 2005
- Probst, John R.; Donner, Deahn M.; Bocetti, Carol I.; Sjogren, Steve. 2003. Population increase in Kirtland's warbler and summer range expansion to Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, USA. Oryx 37(3):365-373
- Probst, John R.; Donner, Deahn; Bocetti, Carol I.; Sjogren, Steve. 2003. Population increase in Kirtland's warbler and summer range expansion to Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, USA. Oryx Vol 37 No 3 July 2003, 365-373
- Probst, John R.; DonnerWright, Deahn. 2003. Fire and shade effects on ground cover structure in Kirtland's warbler habitat. Am. Midl. Nat. 149:320?334
- DonnerWright, Deahn; Bozek, Michael A.; Probst, John R.; Anderson, Eric M. 1999. Responses of turtle assemblage to environmental gradients in the St. Croix River in Minnesota and Wisconsin, U.S.A.. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 77: 989-1000. (1999)
- Headlee, William L.; Lietz, Sue M.; Baumann, Tina M.; Zalesny, Ronald S. Jr.; Donner, Deahn M.; Coyle, David R. 2016. Final spatial and tabular poplar biomass estimates for Minnesota and Wisconsin, USA based on the approach for siting poplar energy production systems to increase productivity and associated ecosystem services. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive. https://doi.org/10.2737/RDS-2016-0030.
- Headlee, William L.; Lietz, Sue M.; Baumann, Tina M.; Zalesny, Ronald S. Jr.; Donner, Deahn M.; Hall, Richard B. 2016. Final spatial and tabular data from a process-based model (3-PG) used to predict and map hybrid poplar biomass productivity in Minnesota and Wisconsin, USA. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive. https://doi.org/10.2737/RDS-2016-0029.
- Reinecke, Susan; Eklund, Daniel A.; Donner, Deahn M.; Beck, Albert J.; Rugg, David J. 2016. Beaver monitoring data from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive. https://doi.org/10.2737/RDS-2016-0013.
National Research Highlights
More than three decades of work on restoration of its nesting habitat has resulted in the recovery of Kirtland’s warbler, a bird that flew close to extinction. Can these gains in nesting habitat be maintained under future climate conditions? Model results suggest most jack pine forests within the core breeding range will remain resilient to changing climate, but jack pine distribution will contract elsewhere in the Lake States.
Scientists study the potential implications of expanding woody biomass harvesting to forest biodiversity?
Demand for wood biomass to help meet the nation’s renewable energy needs raises questions about the implications of removing small-diameter whole trees as well as logging residues (tops and limbs) from forests. The U.S. Department of Energy's 2016 Billion-Ton Report, Volume 1, identified a vast national potential of biomass resources that could be available for industrial uses in the future, but what are the potential environmental implications to our forests with an expanded forest biomass production program?
The answer to that question may be key to their survival. Understanding how bats use the landscape during all stages of their life cycle is crucial to helping restore populations that emerge from hibernation in a weakened condition as a result of white-nose syndrome.
Efforts to better understand habitat use patterns of the wood turtle at the western edge of their range is important for range-wide conservation. Forest Service scientists analyzed radio telemetry data from northeast Minnesota to assess habitat associations and space-use patterns and found wood turtles generally remained within 100 meters of flowing water, but they appeared to prefer other aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats when not adjacent to flowing water.
Bats provide an important ecosystem services: They are voracious eaters of insects and can eat their body weight in insects every night. Unfortunately, many cave dwelling bat populations in the East and Midwest are declining drastically due to the expansion of white-nose syndrome across the United States. To increase bat awareness among youth, a Forest Service scientists worked with local teachers to give live bat demonstrations, presentations, and instruction on building bat houses through collaborations with local businesses. Students learned how to install houses to maximize use by bats.
Coyotes are widely distributed, highly mobile predators that exhibit regional differences in habitat affinities, prey specialization, social aggregation, and movement patterns. Reasons for this regional variability are not easily explained given that coyotes are habitat generalists. Forest Service scientists worked with research partners to identify the contact zone of two colonizing fronts in New York, using genetic techniques to better understand reported differences in coyote ecology across the state. Coyotes in rugged forested regions were found to be genetically different from coyotes in the hilly, mixed agricultural-forest areas of the state. Including spatial data allowed scientists to differentiate coyote lineages that could not be identified through other means.
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.
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.
Findings represent short-term effects and give a baseline for long-term study
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.