Urban Wildlife and Biodiversity Initiative

Urban Wildlife and Biodiversity Initiative

Grant Type: 

  • Leadership Program


Award Date: 

May 2011




Amherst, MA

The U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station, based in Amherst, Massachusetts, hired Susannah Lerman to lead a project to incorporate a wildlife habitat component to the NRS's urban forest evaluation program.  The end goal was to improve the Forest Service's overall urban forest management activities.  To that end, Susannah integrated metrics on bird habitat as an indicator of ecosystem health into the Forest Service's computer modeling software to develop an overall picture of urban forest biodiversity.  The data is being made available to a broad range of users including forest managers, municipalities, planners, students and volunteers for information on bird populations as an indicator of biodiversity and ultimately, as a tool to assist land managers.  Susannah completed her PhD in biology from UMass Amherst in May, 2011.  Her past experience includes scientific research with the Center for Biological Diversity in San Diego, CA; with the Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory in Keene, NH; and with the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences in Woodstock, Vermont.  The computer software into which Susannah's habitat modeling work has been incorporated is described in the journal, Landscape and Urban Planning.  

Spotlight on Leadership

Studying the role of infectious disease and perceptions of ecological change
2014 Fellow Andrea Adams’s dissertation research involves the study of disappearing frogs in Southern California. “One species, the foothill yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii) disappeared from the region during a short period of time in the mid-1960s to early 1970s,” Andrea explains. “One thing that can cause such rapid declines in amphibians is the pathogenic amphibian chytrid fungus. I study this fungus’s distribution and disease dynamics in different amphibian species in Southern California to see if it could have been a major contributing factor to the disappearance of the foothill yellow-legged frog in the region. To do this, I conduct molecular work in the laboratory, as well as field and museum work.”Read more >

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