Current Lab Members

Peter P. Marra

Laudato Si’ Professor of Biology and the Environment
Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy
Director, Georgetown Environment Initiative
Emeritus Senior Scientist, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Pete comes to Georgetown University after a 20-year career at the Smithsonian Institution, most recently as Director of the Migratory Bird Center. He has a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College and has authored over 225 papers published in journals such as Science, Nature and Conservation Biology on various aspects of the biology and conservation of birds and other animals, as well as on topics as broad as urban disease ecology. He co-edited the frequently cited book – Birds of Two Worlds and recently published a second book – Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of Cuddly Killer. Pete lives in Takoma Park with his wife and two kids, is an avid fisherman, a gardener and cook.

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Nathan W. Cooper

Research Associate

Nathan is a conservation biologist and behavioral ecologist. Nathan strongly values conservation related research and relishes the opportunity to provide useful information to those tasked with managing animal habitats and populations. Early in his career, Nathan recognized the power of manipulative ecological experiments to reveal cause and effect relationships, and uses field-based experiments wherever possible. To further our understanding of the world around us and inform conservation efforts, Nathan has used a variety of tools ranging from simple behavioral observations and population monitoring to more innovative techniques such as 3D territory mapping, light-level geolocation, and radio tracking. He has studied birds during both the breeding season and the wintering period and always tries to approach his research by taking the whole annual cycle into consideration. Currently, Nathan is studying the behavioral ecology and conservation biology of Kirtland’s Warblers.

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Bryant Dossman

PhD Student

Bryant is trained as a behavioral and population ecologist. His research interests primarily focus on the linkages between animal movement and population ecology with special interests dealing with populations of migratory land birds. His work on the ecology of migratory birds began with his work on differential migration in a population of Savanna Sparrows at Bowdoin College under Nat Wheelwright. Since then he has undertaken numerous field research positions working with the Black-throated Blue warblers at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, the stopover ecology of passerine migrants on the Gulf Coast with the University of Southern Mississippi, to the winter ecology of American redstarts in Jamaica with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. His MSc focused on the stopover ecology of migratory warblers in the Great Lakes. By utilizing an automated radio telemetry array, he was able to determine the factors that influence migratory movement dynamics across western Lake Erie and Southern Ontario with implications on wind energy development throughout the Great Lakes. Bryant is currently pursuing his PhD at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where he has returned to work in Jamaica on American Redstarts (advisors: Peter Marra & Amanda Rodewald) looking to develop upon his interests in the movement, behavioral, and population ecology of migratory birds.

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Brian Evans

Research Associate

Brian is a quantitative ecologist and data scientist specializing in the ecology of birds in human-dominated landscapes. Brian earned a B.S. in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2006 and a PhD in Quantitative Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015. Brian’s work utilizes mark-recapture, point count, radio and GPS tracking, citizen science, and GIS data to assess landscape and regional predictors of bird population dynamics, movement ecology, and community composition. As an expert-level computer programmer, he assists colleagues in quantifying field data and teaches professional workshops and graduate classes on Program R and data science. Currently, Brian is creating a data management system for storing and accessing field data and developing unique citizen science and education programs that engage the public in the ecology and conservation of urban systems.

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Amy Scarpignato

Research Technician

Amy earned her B.S. in Ecology and Systematic Biology from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo in 2003, and her M.S. in Natural Resources/Wildlife Biology, studying the spatial ecology of Common Ravens, from Humboldt State University in 2011. Amy is mapping the Bird Banding Laboratory’s database of band recoveries, which includes over 5 million recoveries spanning over one hundred years. This information, along with all of the tracking data for all avian species in North America, will be synthesized and compiled into the Atlas of Migratory Connectivity for North American birds. Amy is part of the Migratory Connectivity Project, which works to improve the understanding of migratory connectivity, to promote full annual and life cycle biology research, and to advance the technological tools needed to track birds.

Shawn Smith

PhD Student

Shawn is a PhD student at George Mason University, co-advised by Drs. Pete Marra and David Luther. He earned his B.S. in Wildlife Sciences from Auburn University and M.S. in Raptor Biology from Boise State University. Shawn’s previous work investigated how human adaptations to climate change can alter the breeding phenology of a generalist predator, the American kestrel. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Neighborhood Nestwatch Project studying how changes in the landscape affect the survival of birds along the urban to rural gradient. As humans convert land to cities, they change the local climate which can affect species differently throughout the year. Additionally, urban environments often have different available resources than their surrounding rural areas. This is likely to result in a multitude of effects on survival, condition, and reproduction throughout the year.

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Calandra Stanley

Post-doctoral Researcher

Calandra is interested in the behavioral ecology and conservation of migratory birds. Her research aims to understanding how migratory birds interact with their environment throughout their annual cycle using both laboratory and field studies. For her postdoctoral research she is using satellite transmitters to track Yellow-billed cuckoos in order to study their movement ecology and identify spatiotemporal patterns of mortality. Stanley earned her bachelor’s and master’s of science in biology from York University, Canada, and her Ph.D. in biological sciences at the University of Maryland under the supervision of Dr. Peter Marra and Dr. Michele Dudash.

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R. Alex Wiebe

Research Technician

Alex is a biologist interested in the ecology of global change. He received his B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University in 2019, and will be starting a PhD at Princeton University in the fall of 2020. At Georgetown, he is involved with a number of projects in the Marra lab, including the statistical modeling of winter range shifts of migratory birds in the US. Alex’s research interests are focused on human-caused changes in the distribution of biodiversity; he is involved in research related to species distribution modeling, predictive modeling of biodiversity change, and effects of governance and human land use practices on birds.

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