Lab Members


Mike Wunder, PI

I’m an Associate Professor of Biology with an interest in the ecological, behavioral, and evolutionary dynamics of migratory animal populations. I’ve spent most of my life in Colorado, having obtained my undergraduate degree in Environmental, Population, and Organismal Biology from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1994, and my doctoral degree in Ecology from Colorado State University in 2007. Between the two degree programs, I worked as a wildlife biologist for various private consulting firms, for the Bureau of Land Management, for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. I accepted a faculty position with the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Colorado Denver in 2008 and served as the Director of Graduate Studies from 2014-2016. I also served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Animal Ecology from 2009-2016. CV

My research is framed by regional and global scale questions of how wild animal populations cope with the uncertainty of seasonal environments, and how our understanding of that shapes population conservation and management decisions. Most research in my lab is empirical and involves varied combinations of field based sampling, laboratory based analysis, and computation based inference. Current research projects focus primarily on questions about migratory bird populations. For a full list of peer-reviewed publications, see Google Scholar and Research Gate.

I teach upper division and graduate courses in biostatistics, data analysis, and scientific communication. I am an affiliate faculty for ITCE: Inter-University Training for Continental Ecology, an NSF-funded training program for macrosystems biology. As part of this program, I co-teach a short course on the use of isotopes in spatial ecology and biogeochemistry at the University of Utah every summer.

Contact Mike


Amber Carver, PhD Student

I have a background in field ornithology, and my interests include research, conservation, and science communication. I obtained my BS/BA from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. My undergraduate education included coursework in the general sciences, upper-division ecology, and independent field research. My professional focus is ornithology. I chose this field because birds are excellent indicators of environmental change and because birds are charismatic, which can help get the public interested in studying and conserving the systems that birds are part of. At UCD, I completed my master’s research on grassland birds in 2015, and I am now part of the PhD program. My goal is to become a research wildlife biologist and professor, working to improve our understanding of avian biology and to increase scientific literacy. Contact Amber


Ben Lagasse, MS Student

I received my BSc. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2014. As an undergraduate and during the years following graduation I held a number of positions as a field technician studying topics from Wood Thrush reproductive ecology and provisioning behavior, to the staging ecology of Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank. Through my studies, travels and time spent living on the Atlantic coast I developed an appreciation for the ways migratory species navigate thousands of kilometers and overcome countless challenges throughout their annual cycle. Perhaps no group of birds embodies this ability better than arctic-breeding shorebirds, and so for my thesis I’m looking at the migration ecology of Dunlin at multiple sites throughout the arctic. More specifically, my research focuses on the migratory connectivity of eight different subspecies using light-level geolocators. Contact Ben


Tyler Michels, MS Student

Earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology & Wildlife Ecology: Research and Management from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in 2011. Studied avian ecology as a research assistant and field biologist on numerous projects across the United States and Argentina. Research interests include avian reproduction and migration biology. As a graduate student I am currently studying multiple species interactions on prairie dog colonies and how they affect the mountain plover. Field sites include Pawnee and Thunder Basin National Grasslands. Using GPS loggers, I am also investigating habitat use by incubating mountain plovers in a mixed habitat/ownership landscape in the Pawnee National Grasslands. Contact Tyler


Libby Pansing, PhD Student

I received my BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2010. Sometime after graduating, I realized that I wanted to conduct research on a topic that had long held my fascination: how trees persist in harsh environments and recover from population declines associated with disturbance. In the spring of 2014, I received my MSc from UCD after studying how microhabitat characteristics and cache pilferage influence patterns of conifer regeneration. That same semester, I entered UCD’s doctoral program. Currently, I am interested in understanding the biophysical drivers of conifer regeneration and the spatial distribution of mature trees on the landscape. Contact Libby


Ryan Parker, MS Student

I completed my undergrad at the University of Wyoming, earning degrees in Wildlife & Fisheries Biology & Management, and Environment & Natural Resources. While at UW I got my first internship with the Forest Service – Douglas Ranger District on the Thunder Basin National Grassland (TBNG). It has since turned into a full time tech job, and now a partnership with the University of Colorado – Denver. With the Forest Service, I have worked on a sage grouse management project as well as with raptors, bats, amphibians, and fish. The main focus of my job is black-tailed prairie dog management and associated species (mountain plover, burrowing owl, and swift fox). My research at UCD involves occupancy modeling for mountain plover, burrowing owl, and swift fox on prairie dog colonies at TBNG, as well as nest/den distribution among the three species. I am collaborating with fellow MS candidate Tyler Michels, looking at similar research on the Pawnee National Grassland. I have a passion for wildlife in the grassland ecosystem, and my goal is to be a Wildlife Biologist for a federal land management agency.  Contact Ryan


Allison Pierce, PhD Student

I earned my BS in Biology from the University of Colorado Denver in Integrative Biology. Prior to joining the Wunder lab, I worked as a certified veterinary technician with emphasis in critical care, dentistry, and exotic animal medicine. In 2014, research experiences during my undergrad inspired me to leave my career and pursue graduate study. My broad research interests include animal population dynamics and behavioral ecology. In fall of 2017, I transitioned into the Integrative and Systems Biology PhD program after completing my master’s thesis which focused on population biology of Mountain Plover breeding at high-elevation in South Park, Colorado. For my doctoral studies, I aim to extend the scope of my research beyond localized breeding season effects on population dynamics to investigate questions about migratory ecology and population dynamics of Mountain Plovers at the continental scale. I am interested in the effects of environmental and phenotypic variation on individual migration movements and survival, and how this translates to population level effects on seasonal distribution and population persistence across the landscape. As part of this research, I am tracking individual plover migration movements using GPS data loggers in collaboration with the Migratory Connectivity Project and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Read more about my work here and hereContact Alli.


David Schutt, MS Student

My academic background began at the University of Colorado Boulder, with undergraduate work including both a BA in Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology as well as a BS in Business Administration. A few years after receiving my degrees, I took a chance and left the comforts of home and a stable job to work for two seasons in Antarctica and travel around the world. Those journeys eventually led to more work as a penguin research assistant for two seasons in the Falkland Islands. The experiences finally coalesced, transforming a fledgling enthusiasm for travel into a passion for high latitudes, polar fauna and ornithology. I’m now continuing to work with penguins in my own research, studying the spatial gradients of anthropogenic mercury bioaccumulation in Gentoos throughout the Southern Ocean. Contact David


Scott Yanco, PhD Student

I graduated from Colorado College in 2006 with a BA in Biology. Since 2004 I’ve been involved in a long-term study of Flammulated owl demography and habitat associations. This species inhabits the fire-dependent Ponderosa Pine and mixed conifer ecosystems in the mountains of western north America. Broadly, I’m interested in how species’ life histories evolved to reflect the environments they inhabit, especially dynamic, disturbance maintained environments. I’m specifically interested in how these owls respond to forest fires in both the short and long-term. I’m currently working with the U.S. Forest Service to study a population of these owls in the San Juan Mountains before and after a prescribed fire. I will be investigating if and how their usage of habitat changes after the forests they inhabit burn. Contact Scott