Joshua J. Lawler

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Effects of Climate Change on Species Distributions

Recent changes in the Earth's climate have resulted in ecological changes in phenology, species distributions, community composition, and ecosystem dynamics. Because climate change estimates for the coming decade are predicted to be more severe than past changes, we are likely to see even more drastic effects on ecological systems in the future.  I am investigating the effects of climate change on species distributions and the resulting implications for conservation.  Specifically, I am asking how climate-induced range shifts will affect protected lands and how conservation planning approaches can provide protection for biodiversity in a changing climate.

Improving Conservation Planning Tools

Protected areas are one of the best tools for conserving biodiversity.  Selecting those areas, however, is one of the largest challenges facing conservation planners.  My work has investigated two aspects of the reserve-selection process. First, I have investigated the efficacy of using taxonomic and environmental surrogates for biodiversity in the conservation planning process. Second, I have developed methods for incorporating  information about the vulnerability of areas to anthropogenic threats into site-selection approaches.    

map of Fisher range shift



Habitat Selection as a Hierarchical Process

Birds, perhaps more so than most organisms, have the ability to view their environment at multiple spatial scales.  My dissertation research investigated habitat selection in cavity-nesting birds as a hierarchical process involving habitat associations at multiple scales.  I found clear links between patterns at multiple scales, built relatively accurate predictive models at landscape scales, and investigated alternative analytical approaches for multi-scaled habitat studies.

Populations in Dynamic Landscapes

Through different land-use practices, we have the ability to drastically alter ecological systems on extremely short time scales.  I am investigating the potential effects of alternative forest-management practices on the population dynamics of five species in the Coast Range of Oregon.  I'm using a spatially explicit, individual-based, population model to predict population trends over the next 100 years for three alternative management scenarios  across multiple land-ownerships.  This work is part of the US Forest Service's Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study (CLAMS).



Endangered Species Recovery Planning

The Endangered Species Act is designed to provide protection for species threatened with extinction.  One of the keys to the process or recovering species is the endangered species recovery plan, a document required by the ESA for listed species.  As part of a National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) project, I worked with a group of graduate students at the University of Maine to determine how both the threats to, and the monitoring of, species were treated in the recovery-planning process.

Modeling the Effects of Acid Deposition

The Clean Air Act amendments of 1971 aimed to reduce emissions of SOx and consequently acid deposition.  Working with a team of watershed modelers, water chemists, and economists, I investigated the potential impacts of reduced emissions on the high elevation lakes of Maine.  I adapted and applied a reduced-form model (the Tracking Analysis Framework [TAF] model) which had been developed for use in the Adirondack Mountains.

TAF model

Research Projects


Josh Lawler 
College of Forest Resources 
University of Washington 
Box 352100 
Seattle, WA 98195
phone 206.685.4367
fax 206.616.6101