Spotted Owl Conservation

I began working with Spotted Owls in 2016 as a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The focus of my dissertation was the development of a landscape-scale acoustic monitoring program in the northern Sierra Nevada. Until then, Spotted Owl monitoring had been conducted small study areas, albeit with very detailed mark-recapture methods. I implemented a passive acoustic survey approach that allowed us to triple the spatial coverage of the nearest conventional study. This broad spatial coverage was essential to understanding the progression of the ongoing invasion of Barred Owls, as well as to allow for more robust inferences about the spotted owl population.

The first major finding of the project was that the Barred Owl population was growing rapidly in the northern Sierra Nevada. All available evidence suggested that the establishment of Barred Owls in the Sierra Nevada would doom the California Spotted Owl in the core of its range. A unique coalition of academic, agency, and industry partners came together to implement an experimental removal of Barred Owls, which ultimately eradicated them from the Sierra Nevada and enabled a nearly immediate recovery of the Spotted Owl.

Barred Owls remain an urgent threat to the northern Spotted Owl, and I am collaborating with the UW team led by Dr. Zach Peery in their work in California’s coastal redwood region to understand how we can effectively monitor – and control – the Barred Owl population in what appears to be the last stronghold of the northern Spotted Owl.

In the Sierra Nevada, Spotted Owl conservation has pivoted (back) to an attempt to understand how the threat of long-term habitat loss driven by megafires can be counteracted by forest management that risks incurring short-term habitat degradation. Continual refinement of the acoustic monitoring program is central to this effort because accurately assessing where owls are and are not in relation to fire and forest management is essential to understanding – and managing – how the population is changing across time and space.

Check out the latest news here.

Representative Publications

  1. Watson, WA, CM Wood, KG Kelly, DF Hofstadter, KF Kryshak, CJ Zulla, V O’Rourke, JJ Keane, RJ Gutiérrez, and MZ Peery. 2023. Passive acoustic indicates Barred Owls are established in northern coastal California and management intervention is warranted. Ornithological Applications duad017.
  2. Hofstadter, DF, NF Kryshak, CM Wood, BP Dotters, KN Roberts, KG Kelly, JJ Keane, SC Sawyer, PA Shaklee, HA Kramer, RJ Gutiérrez, and MZ Peery. 2022. Arresting the spread of invasive species in continental systems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. doi: 10.1002/fee.2458.
  3. Reid, D, CM Wood, SA Whitmore, WJ Berigan, JJ Keane, SC Sawyer, PA Shaklee, HA Kramer, KG Kelly, A Reiss, RJ Gutiérrez, H Klinck, MZ Peery. 2021. Noisy neighbors and reticent residents: Distinguishing resident from non-resident individuals to improve passive acoustic monitoring. Global Ecology and Conservation. e01710.
  4. Wood, CM, N Kryshak, M Gustafson, DF Hofstadter, BK Hobart, SA Whitmore, B Dotters, K Roberts, JJ Keane, SC Sawyer, Gutiérrez, and MZ Peery. 2021. Density dependence influences competition and hybridization at an invasion front. Diversity and Distributions. 00:0-12.
  5. Wood, CM, RJ Gutiérrez, JJ Keane, and MZ Peery. 2020. Early detection of rapid Barred Owl population growth within the range of the California Spotted Owl advises the Precautionary Principle. The Condor 122: 1-10.
  6. Wood, CM, SA Whitmore, RJ Gutiérrez, SC Sawyer, JJ Keane, and MZ Peery. 2018. Using metapopulation models to assess species conservation – ecosystem restoration trade-offs. Biological Conservation 224: 248-257