Scientists & Staff

Susannah Lerman

Susannah B. Lerman

Research Ecologist
University of Massachusetts
160 Holdsworth Way, Holdsworth Hall
Amherst, MA, 01003-4230
Phone: 413-545-5447

Contact Susannah B. Lerman

Current Research

My research highlights strategies and tools for reconciling urban development with conservation. I use a socio-ecological approach to improve fundamental understanding of key ecological processes in urban systems, with a focus on wildlife. Current studies:
  • Explore how wildlife responds to alternative yard management regimes to test whether altering green space managment behaviors can maximize benefits for urban biodiversity while delivering ecosystem services. This research is part of the American Residential Macrosystem project.  
  • Develop and integrate habitat relationship models into the urban forest assessment tool i-Tree. The wildlife module provides a rapid assessment of the bird habitat potential in the urban forest, evaluates habitat improvement plans, and provides detailed information of habitat requirements for 10 northeastern birds
  • Assess the population dynamics and stability of backyard birds by studying nest success and annual survival along urban and latitudinal gradients. I partner with citizen scientists to enhance environmental literacy and reconnect people with nearby nature in urban and suburban areas. This research is part of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center's Neighborhood Nestwatch Network.
  • Document long-term trends of urban wildlife communities in suburban neighborhoods and human perceptions of wildlife. Research is part of the Central Arizona Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project.

Research Interests

I translate the application of scientific information into management tools with the ultimate goal of improving the sustainability of urban environments for wildlife and advancing human well-being through reconnecting urbanites with nearby nature. I explore the links between human management of the urban forest (e.g. yards, neighborhood parks and open space) and the health and success of native wildlife populations, and how these impacts subsequently feedback to influence people due to the role of biodiversity in delivering ecosystem services. I seek opportunities to explain scientific findings to varying audiences while trying to facilitate connections between the publics' personal lives and the urban ecosystem.

Manuscripts under review, in revision, in press

Warren, P.S.*, S.B. Lerman*, R. Andrade, H.L. Bateman, K.L. Larson. In revision. The more things change, the more they stay the same: Bird-socioeconomic relationships remain the consistent in Phoenix, Arizona over 5 year period despite species losses. Ecosphere.  *co-first authors

Past Research

Lerman, Susannah B.; Contosta, Alexandra R.; Milam, Joan; Bang, Christofer 2018. To mow or to mow less: Lawn mowing frequency affects bee abundance and diversity in suburban yards. Biological Conservation. 221: 160-174.

Aronson, M.F.J., C.A. Lepczyk, K.L. Evans, M.A. Goddard, S.B. Lerman, J.S. MacIvor, C.H. Nilon, and T. Vargo. 2017. Biodiversity in the city: research priorities and knowledge gaps for urban green space planning and management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 15(4): 189-196. doi:10.1002/fee.1480

Goddard, M.A., Ikin, K., and Lerman, S.B. 2017. Ecological and social factors determining the diversity of birds in residential yards and gardens. Pp. 371-397 in: E. Murgui and M. Hedblom, eds. Ecology and Conservation of Birds in Urban Environments. Springer International Publishing.

Lerman, S.B. and J. Milam. 2016. Bee fauna and floral abundance within lawn-dominated suburban yards in Springfield, MA. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 1-11. doi: 10.1093/aesa/saw043.

Kane, B., P.S. Warren, and S.B. Lerman. 2015. Tree risk assessment and the occurrence of cavity-nesting birds in residential landscapes. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 14: 1137-1146.

Lerman, S.B. and N. F. Sonti. 2015. U.S. Forest Service and partners deliver urban wildlife research in support of conservation and management. Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 2. Available at:

Lerman, S.B., K.H. Nislow, D.J. Nowak, S. DeStefano, D.I. King, and D.T. Jones-Farrand. Using urban forestry monitoring tools to model urban bird habitat potential. 2014. Landscape and Urban Planning 122: 29-40.

Strohbach, M., S.B. Lerman and P.S. Warren. 2013. Are small urban greening areas enhancing bird diversity? Insights from community-driven greening projects from Boston. Landscape and Urban Planning 114: 69-79.

Lerman, S.B., P.S. Warren, H. Gan, and E. Shochat. 2012. Linking foraging decisions to residential yard composition. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43497. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043497.

Lerman, S.B., V.K. Turner, and C. Bang. 2012. Homeowners Associations as a vehicle for promoting urban biodiversity: A case study from Phoenix, AZ. Ecology and Society 17(4): 45.

Warren, P.S., R. Ryan, S.B Lerman, K. Tooke. 2011. Social and institutional factors associated with land use and forest conservation along two urban gradients in Massachusetts. Landscape and Urban Planning 102: 82-92.

Lerman, S.B. and P.S. Warren. 2011. The conservation value of residential landscapes: Exploring the links between birds and people. Ecological Applications 21: 1327-1339.

Shochat, E., S.B. Lerman, J.M Anderies, P.S. Warren, S.H. Faeth, and C.H. Nilon. 2010. Invasion, competition, and biodiversity loss in urban ecosystems. BioScience 60: 199-208.

Warren, P.S., S.B. Lerman and N.D. Charney. 2008. Plants of a feather: Spatial autocorrelation of gardening practices in suburban neighborhoods. Biological Conservation 141: 3-4.

Atwood, J.L. and S.B. Lerman. 2007. Vocal variations in coastal Cactus Wrens: should coastal California populations be protected under the U. S. Endangered Species Act? Western Birds 38: 29-46.

Shochat, E., S.B. Lerman, M. Katti, and D. Lewis. 2004. Linking optimal foraging behavior to bird community structure in an urban-desert landscape: field experiments with artificial food patches. American Naturalist 164: 232-243.

Why This Research is Important

Most people see the urban and suburban landscape as a concrete jungle, devoid of wildlife, but I see potential wildlife habitat that could reverse the loss of biodiversity in urban areas while simultaneously providing positive interactions between people and nature. Given that by 2050 more than 80% of the world population will live in urban and suburban areas, this view becomes an essential tenet in the field of applied ecology, conservation biology and wildlife management. At the heart of my research, I aim to make my work relevant to the end users including environmental practitioners, landscape planners, urban foresters and the public, to more effectively implement change in policy and human behaviors that promote biodiversity.

Professional Organizations

  • Citizen Science Association (2014 - Current)
  • The Wildlife Society (2011 - Current)
  • Ecological Society of America (2005 - Current)
  • American Ornithological Society (2002 - Current)
    Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Awards & Recognition

  • Elected Member, American Ornithological Society, 2017
  • National Science Foundation SEES Fellowship, 2012
  • Switzer Environmental Fellowship, 2010

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

  • Groffman, Peter M.; Avolio, Meghan; Cavender-Bares, Jeannine; Bettez, Neil D.; Grove, J. Morgan; Hall, Sharon J.; Hobbie, Sarah E.; Larson, Kelli L.; Lerman, Susannah B.; Locke, Dexter H.; Heffernan, James B.; Morse, Jennifer L.; Neill, Christopher; Nelson, Kristen C.; O'Neil-Dunne, Jarlath; Pataki, Diane E.; Polsky, Colin; Chowdhury, Rinku Roy; Trammell, Tara L. E. 2017. Ecological homogenization of residential macrosystems. Nature Ecology & Evolution
Last modified: Monday, April 02, 2018