Lisabeth Willey, PhD
Core Faculty, Environmental Studies & Sustainability
I am a conservation biologist with a focus on vertebrate ecology, and I enjoy working with students and collaborators to employ varied field sampling and modeling techniques to tackle applied ecological questions, both inside and beyond the classroom. My teaching is influenced by a range of research and collaborative projects that emphasize finding solutions to challenges associated with biodiversity loss, habitat loss and fragmentation, and rare species and ecosystem conservation.
Recently, I’ve worked with university, agency, non-profit, and student collaborators to undertake regional, rare wildlife conservation planning efforts in the northeastern U.S., which include field sampling programs to help inform empirically-derived models that can then be used to inform conservation and management decisions at multiple spatial and temporal scales. With a background in Environmental Engineering, I enjoy bringing a quantitative lens to such problems, but I’m most excited about engaging partners from across disciplines to plan and implement conservation actions. Much of my work is focused in New England, but I explore ecological questions across a range of environmental conditions, from alpine systems in Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador, to tropical forest systems on the Yucatán peninsula, with a special focus on evaluating the effects of landscape composition, structure, and change on those systems.
I’m thrilled to be part of AUNE’s interdisciplinary and collaborative Environmental Studies Department where I have the opportunity to engage and learn with students and colleagues from within and beyond the Department and to try to tackle these and other challenging environmental problems inside and outside the classroom. Ecological and environmental systems are so complex that the most effective way to find solutions is to work together, building capacity with a vast array of skills, backgrounds, and perspectives. If you have interest in collaborating on a project, please get in touch!
- Postdoctoral Research Associate, Massachusetts Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
- Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- BS, Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Willey, L.L., M.T. Jones, et al. 2014. Conservation Plan for Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in the Northeastern United States. Publication of the Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group (http://blandingsturtle.org).
Jones, M.T., L. Willey, P. Sievert, T.S.B. Akre, et al. 2014. Status and Conservation of the Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in the Northeastern United States. Report to the Regional Conservation Needs Program of NEAFWA and WMI. At website: http://northeastturtles.org/NE/RCN2011-02.pdf
Jones, M.T., and L.L. Willey (Eds). 2012. Eastern Alpine Guide: A Natural History of Mountain Tundra East of the Rockies. Published by Beyond Ktaadn, Inc. and Boghaunter Books. December 2012. 346 pp. www.easternalpine.org
Willey, L.L., and M.T. Jones. 2012. Site characteristics of Sibbaldia procumbens (Rosaceae) on the Uapishka Plateau (Monts Groulx), Québec, with notes on the alpine flora. Rhodora 114(957): 21-30.
Willey, L.L., and P. Sievert. 2012. Notes on the nesting ecology of the eastern box turtle in central Massachusetts. Northeastern Naturalist 19(3):361-372.
Johnson, L.M., L.L. Willey, M.T. Jones, and F. Sangermano. 2012. Predicting core reproductive habitat for wolverine (Gulo gulo) in Québec, Canada using a GIS–based deductive modeling approach. Technical report prepared for Province du Québec. Beyond Ktaadn; New Salem, MA. 28 pp.
Jones, M.T., and L.L. Willey. 2011. Distribution and Demography of box turtles (Terrapene carolina bauri Taylor, 1895) in the Ten Thousand Islands, Florida. Summary report submitted to the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and FL Department of Environmental Protection. 17 pp.
Willey, L.L., L. Johnson, L. Erb. 2010. Eastern box turtle monitoring in Massachusetts, 2010 Report. Technical Report prepared for the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (MNHESP); Westboro, MA. 20pp.
I’m interested in a range of varied ecological questions with a particular emphasis on characterizing landscape pattern and evaluating how change in landscape composition and structure affects long-lived systems. I explore these questions through two disparate systems: freshwater turtles and alpine tundra. I work with students and colleagues to design ecological studies and develop empirically-derived models at multiple spatial and temporal scales to inform broad-scale, collaborative conservation planning initiatives, while simultaneously working with collaborators and stakeholders to implements those plans.
Conservation Planning for Blanding’s Turtles in the Northeast U.S.
Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group. The Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is a long-lived, semi-terrestrial turtle species of conservation concern throughout its range. Several isolated, disjunct populations occur in the northeastern U.S. These populations are limited in extent and occur in some of the most heavily developed parts of the region. Blanding’s turtles are listed as “Endangered” by the IUCN and a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in all five Northeast states in which they occur. Because they require diverse, interconnected wetland and terrestrial habitats across large areas, they are an important umbrella species, and conservation actions targeting Blanding’s turtle likely result in protection of many other species. As part of a regional conservation planning effort (sponsored by the USFWS Competitive SWG program), the Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group developed and implemented a 5-state standardized monitoring protocol and used results to rank sites across the region, develop a “conservation network” of high priority Blanding’s turtle sites, and make management recommendations at the regional and site level. We are currently working to implement that plan. Learn more at: www.blandingsturtle.org
Collaborators: Michael Jones and Paul Sievert, Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA; Michael Marchand, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department; Jonathan Regosin and Lori Erb, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife; Derek Yorks, Phillip deMaynadier, and Jonathan Mays, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department; Angelena M. Ross, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Kathy Gipe and Chris Urban, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; Glenn Johnson, State University of New York Potsdam; Bryan Windmiller, Hyla Ecological Services; Mark Grgurovic, Swampwalkers Wetland Ecosystem Specialists; Stephanie Koch, Alison Whitlock and Anthony Tur, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Conservation Planning and Implementation for the Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) and Associated Riparian Species of Greatest Conservation Need from Maine to Virginia
Wood Turtle Council. The wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta LeConte) occurs in riverine, riparian, and terrestrial habitats from Nova Scotia to Virginia and west to Minnesota. Recent studies in the northeast region and adjacent Canada have reported population declines as well as elevated adult mortality caused by roadkill and agricultural machinery. Wood turtles have been identified by the Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (NEPARC) as a species of regional conservation concern because it is listed in >75% of northeast Wildlife Action Plans, and it is listed as Endangered by the IUCN. Scientists, conservationists, and agency representatives from 13 northeastern states are partnering to identify, protect, manage, and enhance functional riparian and riverine habitats for wildlife throughout the region. Learn more at: www.woodturtlecouncil.org
Partners: Mike Jones (UMass Amherst), Thomas Akre (SCBI), Paul Sievert (UMass Amherst), Phillip deMaynadier, Derek Yorks, and Jonathan Mays (Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife); Nancy Sferra (Nature Conservancy of Maine); Michael Marchand (New Hampshire Fish and Game Department); Steve Parren, (Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife); Angelena Ross (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation); Lori Erb, Jon Regosin and Jake Kubel (Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife); Dave Golden and Brian Zarate (New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife); Ed Thompson and Scott Smith (Maryland Department of Natural Resources); J.D. Kleopfer (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries); Leighlan Prout (US Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest); Dr. Raymond Saumure (Springs Preserve); Dr. Barry Wicklow (St. Anselm College); Jim Andrews (Vermont Amphibian and Reptile Atlas); Mark Powell (VT River Conservancy); Dr. Glenn Johnson (SUNY Potsdam); Dr. Russell Burke (Hofstra University); Dr. Kurt Buhlmann (Savannah River Ecology Laboratory); Steve Krichbaum (Wild Virginia); and Bradley W. Compton (UMass Amherst)
Community-based ecological research and conservation of the Yucatán box turtle in Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo
The Yucatán box turtle (Terrapene carolina yucatana) is one of the southernmost, disjunct, and isolated representatives of the wide-ranging North American genus Terrapene (New World box turtles). The status of the Yucatán box turtle is believed to be more precarious than most other taxa in the T. carolina complex, because it is heavily collected as a pet, food source, and medicinal item (for the treatment of asthma) across much of its native range. Prescribed burns, deforestation, and habitat loss are additional pressures facing the subspecies, but little is known about its distribution, status, habitat preferences, or behavior. We have been developing long-term partnerships with scientists, land managers, local business owners, residents, teachers, and ranchers across Yucatán to 1) assess the distribution and relative abundance of Yucatán box turtles through surveys and interviews, 2) evaluate movement and behavioral patterns using radio-telemetry, 3) develop methods of population assessment and prioritization, and 4) gradually develop a realistic and collaborative conservation strategy with conservation partners and small villages in the center of the range.
Collaborators: Michael T. Jones, Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Thomas S.B. Akre and Erika Gonzalez Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA; Rodrigo Macip-Rios, University of Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
Ecology and Management of the Gulf Coast Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina major)
The Gulf Coast box turtle (Terrapene carolina major Agassiz, 1857) is a medium-sized, semi-terrestrial emydid turtle native to portions of the north shore of Gulf of Mexico from the Panhandle region of Florida to eastern Texas. The T. c. major lineage is considered to be a modern form of the Pleistocene T. c. putnami, which ranged the Gulf Coastal Plain and reached carapace length of 300 mm, and most researchers conclude that the major lineage is an evolutionarily significant one because of the retained putnami traits (such as the plesiomorphic axillary scute and large body size) and semi-aquatic habitat preference. The typical form of the Gulf Coast box turtle is restricted to outlying coastal areas and islands between Gulf County, Florida, and Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, and relatively little is known of rangewide abundance, local population densities, and individual responses to disturbances such as prescribed burns, which are conducted in slash pine plantation at intervals as frequent as every three years. We have initiated a long-term study of box turtle populations along the Apalachicola River in Gulf, Franklin, and Liberty Counties, Florida, and on offshore islands near the mouth of the Apalachicola River to evaluate the effects of landcover and disturbance frequency on the population structure of Gulf Coast box turtles.
Collaborators: Michael T. Jones, Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA; Dale R. Jackson, Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Tallahassee, FL 32303 USA; Ross Kiester, Turtle Conservancy. Evaluating Recovery of the Northern Red-bellied Cooter The Massachusetts population of the Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris), formerly Plymouth Red-bellied Cooter, was listed as an endangered species on April 2, 1980. At the time of listing, cooters in Massachusetts were known from only 12 ponds in Plymouth County, MA, with an estimated population of approximately 200 individuals. To increase survival and recruitment by reducing predation rates, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MADFW), in partnership with the USFWS, began a headstarting program (raising wild hatchlings in captivity for 9 months) that continues today. With UMass Amherst, MADFW, and the USFWS, we are assessing the effectiveness of the head start program, estimating current distribution and population status of the species, and identifying management actions necessary to promote species recovery. Collaborators: Jon Regosin and Thomas French, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife; Stephanie Koch and Anthony Tur, US Fish and Wildlife Service; Michael T. Jones and Paul R. Sievert, Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
Conservation of Alpine Biodiversity in Eastern North America
With Beyond Ktaadn (www.beyondktaadn.org), a non-profit organization that is committed to the conservation of alpine biodiversity in eastern North America through applied research, educational programs, and strong regional partnerships, I am collaborating with scientists throughout New England, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, to develop and institute studies and monitoring programs for plants and wildlife species on high elevation, treeless mountain systems across the region. Our work in the region led to a collaborative book, the Eastern Alpine Guide, published in 2012, and we are currently involved in a number of collaborative projects throughout the eastern alpine region which include botanical surveys, mammal community sampling via camera traps, amphibian and avian sampling using acoustic recorders, invertebrate sampling, phylogenetic analyses of plant species, rare plant species recovery efforts, and multi-scale habitat modeling on mountains in New Hampshire, Maine, Québec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Beyond Ktaadn assisted with a GLORIA installation in the Gaspé region of Québec in 2011, a second installation in the White Mountain National Forest in 2014, and began an installation in the Monts Groulx (Uapishka) in 2010, which we plan to complete in 2015 or 2016. Beyond Ktaadn has a long-term commitment to alpine research and conservation, and as part of that plans to continue to collaborate with partner organizations to institute a network of long-term, low impact alpine biodiversity monitoring studies throughout the region in order to assess the effects of climate and landscape change on these rare and sensitive ecosystem types.
Partners and supporters in these efforts include: Bob Capers, University of Connecticut; Guillaume Fortin, Université de Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; Mike Jones, Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at UMass Amherst, Dan Sperduto, USFS; Doug Weihrauch, Appalachian Mountain Club; Daniel Germain is a Université of Québec in Montréal; Paul Wylezol, International Appalachian Trail Newfoundland; Québec Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs, Québec Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, the U.S. Forest Service White Mountain National Forest; the Global Observation Research in Alpine Environments (GLORIA) Network; the Walden Woods Project; and the Waterman Fund.
Beyond Ktaadn, a 501(c)3 organization devoted to the conservation of alpine biodiversity in eastern North America.
Northeast Blanding’s Turtle Working Group, a regional partnership of state wildlife agencies, universities, non-profit organizations, and independent scientists focused on the conservation of Blanding’s turtles in the Northeast.
Wood Turtle Council is an emerging regional partnership of state wildlife agencies, universities, non-profit organizations, and independent scientists focused on the conservation of wood turtles in the Northeast.
Organismic & evolutionary biology; wildlife & fisheries conservation; rare species conservation planning; alpine ecology; landscape ecology; amphibian and reptile ecology; population and habitat suitability modeling
- ESF 511A: Vertebrate Ecology: Herpetology
- ESF 512A: Vertebrate Ecology: Mammalogy
- ES 519A: Biostatistics
Willey, L.L., M. T. Jones, P. R. Sievert, T. Akre, L. Erb, M.Grgurovic, G.Johnson, S. Koch, M. Marchand, J. Mays, A. M. Ross, C. Urban, B. Windmiller. 2012. An Update on Regional Conservation Planning Efforts for Two Rare Turtle Species in the Northeastern US. Northeast Natural History Conference, Springfield, MA. April 14, 2013.
Willey, L.L., M. T. Jones, P. R. Sievert, L. Erb, M. Grgurovic, G. Johnson, S. Koch, M. Marchand, J. Mays, A. M. Ross, C. Urban, B. Windmiller. 2012. Regional Conservation Planning Programs for Blanding’s Turtle in the Northeast. Turtle Survival Alliance, Tucson, AZ. August 19, 2012.
Willey, L.L., M. T. Jones, P. R. Sievert, T. Akre, C. Castellano, L. Erb, M.Grgurovic, G.Johnson, S. Koch, M. Marchand, J. Mays, A. M. Ross, C. Urban, B. Windmiller. 2012. Regional Planning Programs for Blanding’s and Wood Turtle, Two Rare Species in the Northeast. Northeast PARC, Crawford Notch, NH. July 25, 2012.
Jones, M.T., L.L. Willey, and S.D Smyers. Patterns of occurrence of amphibians in eastern alpine areas. Northeast PARC, Crawford Notch, NH. July 25, 2012.
Plunkett, E., L. Willey, K. McGarigal, B. Compton, W. Deluca, and J. Grand. 2012. Assessment of Landscape Changes in the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative: Urban Growth Modeling. Chesapeake Modeling Symposium. Annapolis, MD. May 22, 2012.