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 private consulting firms, Bureau of Land ManagementColorado Parks and Wildlife, and 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 served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Animal Ecology from 2009-2016 and am currently an Associate Editor for Avian Conservation & Ecology

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. CV

Contact Mike

Amber Carver, PhD Candidate

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

Michelle Deprenger-Levin, PhD Candidate

DBG research team searching for Sclerocactus glaucus. Photo credit: Scott Dressel-Martin

I received a BA in Environmental Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN in 1999. I began working for Denver Botanic Gardens in 2001 and earned my MS from UCD in 2007 studying the conservation genetics of a rare sedge. I joined Dr. Wunder’s lab in the spring of 2018 with the goal of developing my modeling skills to further my studies in applied plant conservation. At Denver Botanic Gardens I conduct field research to understand plant population dynamics and model species distributions, population level genetic structure, and response to climate change. Contact Michelle



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

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

Scott Yanco, PhD Candidate

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

Andrea Contina, Post Doctoral Fellow

I joined the lab early in 2019 as a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow working on the “Origin Inference from Geospatial Isotope Networks” (ORIGIN) project (PIs Drs. Wunder, Bowen, Vander-Zanden, Zhao). My interests fall within the domain of molecular ecology and evolution with a strong bent towards conservation biology. For the most part, I study animal movements and the impact of global climate change on population dynamics in migratory species, but I also test and develop novel research tools and biostatistics frameworks to advance the field of molecular ecology. Before moving to Colorado, I was a NSF Postdoc Teaching Fellow within the National Research Traineeship (NRT) program at the University of Oklahoma where I also got my Ph.D. in Animal Biology with Dr. Jeff Kelly and worked in Dr. Eli Bridge’s lab after graduation. My other academic experiences include a MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation from the University of Exeter (UK) and a BSc in Natural Sciences from the University of Catania (IT). Visit my webpage to learn more about my ongoing research projects, including the Painted Bunting Project, and to find my publication list. Contact Andrea