Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

The University of Vermont
Rubenstein School of Environment and  Natural Resources
Burlington, VT 05405

Phone: (802) 656-3011
Fax: (802) 656-8683



Grassland birds
Bat acoustics


Predicting the effects of land-use change on Vermont's biodiversity.   

Principal Investigator
Graduate Student(s)
Funding Sources
Project Brochure
Selected Links

Principal Investigator:  Therese Donovan, Austin Troy, Alexey Voinov


Kim Royar, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife
John Austin, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife

Graduate Students:  

Robert Long -- Western Transportation Institute
Katie Maneras
Kurt Rinehart

Post Docs:

Brian Mitchell -- National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program.
Scott Schwenk

Funding Sources:

Northeastern States Research Cooperative (USDA)
The Nature Conservancy
Jon C. and Catherine Harvey Charitable Foundation
Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife

Abstract: Land use change involves the conversion of one land cover type to another, and often results in the loss and fragmentation of existing wildlife habitat. Although large areas of contiguous habitat still remain in the Northern Forest , increasing development pressures results in the conversion of forests land types to urban, suburban, or exurban land types. In Vermont, for example, the rate of land development is ~ 260% greater than the rate of population growth, where land growth consists primarily of “small urban build up,” i.e., small, unconnected blocks of land that develop within a matrix of less developed land – an effective facilitator of habitat fragmentation for many wildlife species.  These trends indicate that research focused on understanding the impacts of land use change on the region’s native flora and fauna is much needed.  Because different species are expected to respond to land use and climate change in different ways, these assessments should target both individual species and changes in species richness and biological community composition over time.  

In 2003-2004,  we surveyed plants and animals at over 200 sites across Vermont.  The dataset consists of 36,000 bird records, 7,000 amphibian/reptile records, 200 carnivore records, and several thousand invertebrate records and tree records that were collected  Sites were separated by ≥ 8 km, and consisted of 4 survey stations that were separated by 500 meters.  Survey methods were taxon-specific, with either site or station as the sampling unit of interest (e.g., Maneras et al. in press, Long et al. 2007 a, b).  Local vegetation was quantified at each station with standard sampling techniques, and  landscape pattern surrounding each station was characterized with FRAGSTATS® at taxon-specific buffers, based on 2001 National Landcover.  The data for vertebrates were analyzed as presence-absence on a species-by-species basis with a single-season occupancy-modeling framework with local, landscape, and climatic variables as covariates, which allowed us to generate probability of occurrence maps for multiple taxa at a 30m2 spatial scale across the entire state of Vermont. These maps provide the baseline data upon which future land use change scenarios can be quantitatively assessed.   


Robert Long's Dissertation
Long, R. A., T. M. Donovan, P. MacKay, W. J. Zielinski, and J. S. Buzas.  2007.  Effectiveness of scat detection dogs for detecting forest carnivores.  Journal of Wildlife Management 71:2007-2017.
Long, R. A., T. M. Donovan, P. MacKay, W. J. Zielinski, and J. S. Buzas.  2007.  Comparing scat detection dogs, cameras, and hair snares for surveying carnivores.  Journal of Wildlife Management 71:2018-2025.
Smith, K.W., W. S. Keeton, T. M. Donovan, and B. Mitchell.   2008.  Stand-level forest structure in avian habitat: scale dependencies in predicting occurrences in a heterogeneous forest.  Forest Science 54:36-46.
Mitchell, Brian R., and Therese M. Donovan.  Mob mentality: the effect of a mobbing tape on detections during point count surveys.  Open Ornithology Journal:  In press.  
More to come!

Selected Links:

Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife 




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Last modified: March 12, 2008