Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Vermont Biodiversity Monitoring Project

Eastern Newt


January 2002 - December 2012


Land use change involves the conversion of one land cover type to another, and often results in the loss and fragmentation of existing wildlife habitat. Although large areas of contiguous habitat still remain in the Northern Forest, increasing development pressures results in the conversion of forests land types to urban, suburban, or exurban land types. In Vermont, for example, the rate of land development is ~ 260% greater than the rate of population growth, where land growth consists primarily of “small urban build up,” i.e., small, unconnected blocks of land that develop within a matrix of less developed land – an effective facilitator of habitat fragmentation for many wildlife species.

These trends indicate that research focused on understanding the impacts of land use change on the region’s native flora and fauna is much needed. Because different species are expected to respond to land use and climate change in different ways, these assessments should target both individual species and changes in species richness and biological community composition over time.

In 2003-2004, we surveyed plants and animals at over 200 sites across Vermont. The dataset consists of 36,000 bird records, 7,000 amphibian/reptile records, 200 carnivore records, and several thousand invertebrate records and tree records that were collected Sites were separated by ≥ 8 km, and consisted of 4 survey stations that were separated by 500 meters. Survey methods were taxon-specific. Local vegetation was quantified at each station with standard sampling techniques, and landscape pattern surrounding each station was characterized based on 2001 National Landcover.

The data for vertebrates are be analyzed as presence-absence on a species-by-species basis with a single-season occupancy-modeling framework with local, landscape, and climatic variables as covariates, which allowed us to generate probability of occurrence maps for multiple taxa across the entire state of Vermont. These maps provide opportunities for a rich variety of ecological investigations, and provide the baseline data upon which future land use change scenarios can be quantitatively assessed.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Long, R. A., T. M. Donovan, P. MacKay, W. J. Zielinski, and J. S. Buzas. 2007. Comparing scat detection dogs, cameras, and hair snares for surveying carnivores. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:2018-2025. Abstract |  Download  |  Publisher Website | 
  • Long, R. A., T. M. Donovan, P. MacKay, W. J. Zielinski, and J. S. Buzas. 2007. Effectiveness of scat detection dogs for detecting forest carnivores. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:2007-2017. Abstract |  Download  |  Publisher Website | 
  • Smith, K. W., W. S. Keeton, T. M. Donovan, and B. Mitchell. 2008. Stand-level forest structure in avian habitat: scale dependencies in predicting occurrences in a heterogeneous forest. Forest Science 54:36-46. Abstract |  Download  |  Publisher Website | 
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  • Brown, M., T. Donovan, G. Warrington, W. S. Schwenk. D. Theobald. 2014. Predicting Effects of Future Human Population Growth and Development on a Territorial Forest Songbird: Small Declines in Occupancy Equates to Large Declines in Landscape Carrying Capacity. 70th Annual Northeast Fish and Wildlife Confernce, Portald, ME.

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 240

Phd Students: 143

Post Docs: 52

University Staff: 245

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 702

Scientific Publications: 1948

Presentations: 4251



  • Therese DonovanPrincipal Investigator
  • Robert LongStudent
  • Kurt RinehartStudent
  • William SchwenkStaff

Funding Agencies

  • Northeastern States Research Consortium
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • U.S.D.A. Forest Service
  • USDA - Northeastern States Research Consortium


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey