The Wilcove Team
(aka Drongos)
David Wilcove

David S. Wilcove (professor): Members of my research group are tackling a range of topics in different places, but in all of our work we strive to use a combination of ecology, economics, and policy research to find workable solutions to challenging conservation issues. Recent or ongoing projects include studies of the impact of logging and oil-palm agriculture on biodiversity in Southeast Asia (focusing on birds, fish, and dung beetles); the conservation of migratory species; and how human adaptive responses to climate change are likely to affect biodiversity. New or upcoming projects include studies of the wild bird trade in Southeast Asia, the development of coastal wetlands in Asia, and how bird distributions and abundance are affected by land-use changes in the Himalayas and Amazonia. Prior to joining the Princeton faculty in 2001, I served as senior ecologist with the Environmental Defense Fund (1991-2001) and The Wilderness Society (1986-1991). I am an avid birdwatcher who cannot forgive himself for missing the Hawaiian Crow in 1996 (but who did see the Spix’s Macaw in Brazil in 1993).

Jonathan Green (postdoc): I am interested in the decisions that people make regarding the environment and, more specifically, how these relate to the distribution of conservation costs and benefits. My work at Princeton will mainly focus on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. This flyway is vital for at least 33 shorebirds of conservation concern that depend on the intertidal zone for refueling. However, much of the flyway’s coast in the Yellow Sea and Southeast Asia are also a key economic resource for aquaculture, salt production and conversion for urban or industrial development. As a result, the area is undergoing extremely rapid conversion and will require intervention if the habitat upon which the birds rely is to be preserved. I am interested in conducting analyses that consider the winners and losers of such conservation actions by taking both the economic costs and the benefits of conversion into account. By doing so, I hope to evaluate the magnitude of the challenge facing shorebird conservationists and to elucidate economically-plausible strategies that can help avert future losses of habitat and species.


After studying zoology at the University of St. Andrews I became interested in environmental economics, which led me to do a Ph.D. with Andrew Balmford in Cambridge, UK. During my Ph.D. I worked with the Valuing the Arc project, which evaluated ecosystem services in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. My work looked at ways to incorporate information on costs and biological processes into systematic conservation planning in this biodiversity hotspot.




Bert Harris (postdoc):  I am interested in conservation biology, particularly in tropical forests. For this postdoc I am studying the wild bird trade in Southeast Asia, with the goal of determining the impact it is having on populations of wild birds. For my PhD I measured and predicted the effects of climate change on Southeast Asian birds. Please see my website for more information.

Fangyuan Hua (postdoc):I am an avian ecologist, behavioral ecologist, and conservation biologist. My main research interest revolves around understanding how avian and other biodiversity are impacted by anthropogenic habitat degradation, and how management and conservation strategies could intervene to alleviate such impacts. For my research at Princeton University in the Wilcove lab, I will be focusing on the issues of forest loss and degradation, land cover change, and biodiversity conservation in Southern China, particularly the large extent of lowland areas that traditionally receive not much conservation attention. Lowland natural forest in China has undergone profound changes in recent history. Despite the country’s large scale reforestation efforts in the past few decades, forest biodiversity still faces a number of challenges including urbanization, agriculture intensification, and probably above all, the unsuitability of existing reforested habitats that are dominated by a single or few tree species. I will assess the current status of habitat and avian biodiversity in existing forested landscapes in Southern China, and analyze the historical and socio-economic factors underlying such status. These understanding will be critical for informing policies pertaining to land use planning, reforestation and forest management for more effective biodiversity conservation in the region

Morgan Tingley

Morgan Tingley (postdoc): My research combines original data collected in the field with biodiversity informatics (“big data”) and novel quantitative modeling techniques to understand critical ecological questions about organisms. I am most interested in how large-scale anthropogenic drivers of change (e.g., climate change, invasive species, land-use change, fire regimes) affect geographic distributions and community interactions over short (years) to long (centuries) timespans. As a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow, I am working with the Wilcove Lab to understand how multiple drivers of change have impacted bird communities over 70 years in the southern Appalachian mountains. I also have ongoing research in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, where I am studying both long-term bird distributional changes as well as short-term community responses to fire.

Prior to joining Princeton I was a postdoctoral researcher with the Institute for Bird Populations, with whom I worked following the completion of my PhD in 2011 at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to Berkeley (ancient history, now), I worked as an environmental consultant after receiving an M.Sc. in zoology from Oxford University. I completed my B.A. at Harvard University. I will admit that I encourage Professor Wilcove's single-minded obsession with seeing rare birds – having joined him on several sojourns – although I occasionally balk at his unwillingness to drive more than 4 hours to get a "lifer."

Charlotte Chang (new graduate student): earned her BA with honors from Pomona College (2010) and an MPhil from Cambridge University (2011). She has studied prairie songbirds as well as coastal seabirds, and researched breeding songbirds at Chongming Island (Shanghai municipality, China) this past year as a US Fulbright Fellow. She is interested in mathematical modeling, computational simulation, and above all, getting down in the field. She plans to examine the effect of the cage bird trade in Southeast Asia on population persistence.


Paul Elsen (graduate student): My primary research interests are broadly situated in the fields of conservation biology and biogeography. There are two main goals of my dissertation research stemming from these interests. The first is to determine the factors that limit the distribution of birds along altitudinal gradients. To accomplish this I am conducting bird surveys along two elevational gradients in the western Himalayas that differ in terms of species richness, climate patterns, and habitat types. The second goal is to assess how disturbance from grazing, agriculture, and logging are impacting Himalayan bird communities both on their breeding and wintering grounds. This is possible in light of the close proximity of breeding and wintering ranges of many species that undergo short-distance altitudinal migrations. A bonus third goal is to rediscover the Himalayan Quail, an extremely rare and secretive bird last seen in 1876 (and now thought to be extinct) very close to one of my study sites.

Prior to becoming a Drongo, I received my BA from UC Berkeley in 2006. I conducted fieldwork in throughout California and upstate New York, in Patagonia in Argentina, and in the Peruvian Amazon. In addition to fieldwork, I also conducted geospatial analysis for two conservation NGOs, the Wilderness Society and Oceana, as well as for the United States Geological Survey.

Xingli Giam

Xingli Giam (graduate student): I have broad research interests in tropical conservation ecology and biogeography. I am currently studying the effects of land use change on freshwater systems in Southeast Asia. By combining field research and macroecological analyses, I will attempt to quantify the impact of land-use change on freshwater fish communities, with an emphasis on peat swamp forests. To inform conservation and land-use policy in Southeast Asia, I am currently developing spatially-explicit models of peatland deforestation in collaboration with Center for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP) at the National University of Singapore.
    Before starting graduate school in Princeton, I completed my B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. at the National University of Singapore. Both degrees were completed under the supervision of Professors Navjot Sodhi, Hugh Tan, and Corey Bradshaw. Besides spending time with my family, I enjoy playing football (or soccer in the US), tennis, and table tennis in the little free time I have these days. My latest hobby is fish-watching in the nature reserves of Singapore.


Jacob Socolar (graduate student): I am an avid tropical biologist with a particular interest in the hyperdiverse bird communities of Amazonia.  In my research, I hope to inform conservation practice by developing a mechanistic understanding of the processes that permit species persistence and coexistence in Amazonian landscapes.  Currently (through November 2012), I am traveling through Peru in search of a field site that will allow me to explore how landscape configuration and predation regimes interact to shape species coexistence.
Before arriving at Princeton I completed my B.A. at Swarthmore College, during which time I was fortunate to work regularly with bird communities in Peru.  Ornithology aside, I enjoy recreational birdwatching. (And also a few other things--jazz music, vegetarian cooking, canoeing, and the history of colonial and post-colonial Africa and South America).


Tim Treuer (new graduate student):While Tim's research interests lie broadly within the fields of conservation, disease ecology and global change biology, he is currently looking to better understand the relationship between land-use change and risk of arthropod-vectored diseases in the tropics.  His primary focus will likely be on the effects of deforestation on vectors of malaria in Southeast Asia.

Tim grew up in the great state of Alaska, which instilled both a passion for life outdoors and a fine appreciation of tropical climates.  During his years pursuing a degree in organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard, he was fortunate enough to be involved with projects involving fieldwork in the Caribbean and Central America, Southeast Asia and Madagascar.  Beyond academics, Tim enjoys hiking, climbing, ultimate frisbee and SCUBA diving (and is a PADI-certified divemaster).



On a cold day in March 2014, all of the Drongos were together in Princeton for the first time in over a year.  Todd Reichart (Chemistry Department) took this historic photo to commemorate the event

This photo from February 2013 represents the first and only time in roughly two years that all of the Drongos were together at the same time on the Princeton campus.  Usually at least one of us is in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, China, Korea, India, Peru, Ecuador, or even Tennessee.


Drongo Alumni

Bethany Bradley (former postdoc): Bethany studied the impact of climate change on invasive plants in the Western USA from 2006-2006 and continues to collaborate with us as one of the lead investigators on our study of human adaptation to climate change and the resulting impact to biodiversity.  She is now at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

David Edwards ("The Great Argus") (former postdoc): David studied patterns of biodiversity in primary, once-logged, and twice-logged forests in Southeast Asia. He is now at James Cook University.
Lyndon Estes (former postdoc): Lyndon modeled how climate change is likely to shift maize and wheat cultivation in South Africa, as well the implications of those shifts for biodiversity.  He is currently in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton.

Brendan Fisher (former postdoc): Brendan studied the economics of logging and oil palm agriculture in Southeast Asia.  He also studied the efficacy of REDD as a mechanism for preserving vulnerable forests.  Brendan is currently with the World Wildlife Fund.

Nathan Gregory (former graduate student): Nathan studied how prescribed fire and Maasai pastoralism affected bird diversity in the savannas of East Africa.  He is currently at the Institute for Wildlife Studies.

Josh Hooker (former postdoc): From 2005-2008, Josh studied the impacts of climate change on bird communities in North America. He is currently at the University of Reading.
Lian Pin Koh (former graduate student): Pin was a graduate student from 2004-2008, studying the impacts of oil-palm agriculture on biodiversity in Southeast Asia.  He continues to study this issue and other topics in conservation biology at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland. 

Trond Larsen (former postdoc): Trond was a WWF Fuller Postdoctoral Fellow from 2008-2010.  He used dung beetles as a model system for developing conservation strategies in the Andes-Amazonia region.  He is now at Conservation International.

Dave Marvin (former research assistant): From 2006-2008, Dave created a novel web-mapping system to collect data on the distribution and abundance of invasive plants in the Southeast U.S.  He is currently a doctoral student in ecology at the University of Michigan.
Emily Nicholson (former postdoc): Emily was a postdoc from 2006-2007.  Working in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, she developed new quantitative methods for assessing progress in biodiversity conservation.  She is now at Imperial College (London).

David Pattemore (former graduate student): David studied how the loss of native vertebrates in New Zealand has affected the pollination ecology of native plants there; he also studied the degree to which non-native vertebrates are assuming the pollination roles of the missing natives.  He currently is with Plant & Food Research in New Zealand.

Will Turner (former postdoc): Will was a post-doctoral fellow from 2003-2006, working on issues pertaining to reserve design and management. He is with Conservation International.

Charles Yackulic (former postdoc): Charles modeled the spatial and population dynamics of spotted owls and barred owls in the Pacific Northwest.  He currently is with the USGS Biological Resources Division.

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