Michael Akresh, PhD
Core Faculty, Environmental Studies
Co-Director, The Institute for International Conservation
My teaching and research interests focus on wildlife management, biostatistics, ornithology, tropical ecology, and citizen science. I work with students in and outside of classes on these topics. My work frequently has a strong quantitative approach; I incorporate both standardized and state-of-the-art field techniques and statistical analyses to robustly examine research questions and hypotheses of interest. I often work closely with a wide variety of stakeholders, including state and federal agencies, non-profit conservation organizations, research collaborators and universities, and the general public.
I’m looking forward to connecting with many Antioch students while teaching classes, conducting research, and advising. I aspire to provide opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience conducting field work, analyzing data, and writing scientific reports, while also interacting with organizations, agencies, and the general society. I strive to help students develop a strong foundation of skills that they can use in future roles as environmental professionals.
I am always looking to collaborate on projects, within Antioch or outside of the university. Please contact me if you have similar interests and are interested in collaborating.
- Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Associate, University of Massachusetts Amherst / US Forest Service Northern Research Station
- PhD, Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- MS, Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- BS, Program in the Environment; Minor in Biology, University of Michigan
15. Lott, C. A., M. E. Akresh, A. J. Elmore, C. J. Fiss, M. C. Fitzpatrick, D. I. King, D. J. McNeil, and J. L. Larkin. 2019. What is the evidence for bird species-environment relationships in temperate deciduous forests of eastern North America? A systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence 8:31.
14. Akresh, M. E., D. I. King, and P. P. Marra. 2019. Rainfall and habitat interact to affect the condition of a wintering migratory songbird. Ecology and Evolution 9:8042-8061.
13. Akresh, M. E., D. I. King, and P. P. Marra. 2019. Examining carry-over effects of winter habitat on breeding phenology and reproductive success in prairie warblers (Setophaga discolor). Journal of Avian Biology 50. doi: 10.1111/jav.02025
12. Akresh, M. E., D. I. King, B. C. Timm, and R. T. Brooks. 2017. Fuels management and habitat restoration activities benefit Eastern Hognose Snakes (Heterodon platirhinos) in a disturbance-dependent ecosystem. Journal of Herpetology 51:468-476.
11. Akresh, M. E., D. R. Ardia, and D. I. King. 2017. Effect of nest characteristics on thermal properties, clutch size, and reproductive performance for an open-cup nesting songbird. Avian Biology Research 10:107-118.
10. Byers, B. E., M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2016. Song and male quality in prairie warblers. Ethology 122:660-670.
9. Akresh, M. E., and D. I. King. 2016. Eastern whip-poor-will breeding ecology in relation to habitat management in a pitch pine-scrub oak barren. Wildlife Society Bulletin 40:97-105.
8. Akresh, M. E., and D. I. King. 2015. Observations of new bird species for San Salvador Island, The Bahamas. Caribbean Naturalist 26:1-10.
7. Byers, B. E., M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2015. A proxy of social mate choice in prairie warblers is correlated with consistent, rapid, low-pitched singing. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69:1275-1286.
6. Akresh, M. E., D. I. King, and R. T. Brooks. 2015. Demographic response of a shrubland bird to habitat creation, succession, and disturbance in a dynamic landscape. Forest Ecology and Management 336:72-80.
5. Jones, T. M., M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2013. Recent sightings of Kirtland’s Warblers on San Salvador Island, The Bahamas. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125:637-642.
4. Byers, B. E., B. A. Kramer, M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2013. Interspecific song imitation by a Prairie Warbler. Journal of Field Ornithology 84:181-186.
3. Riba-Hernandez, L., M. E. Akresh, W. Hernandez, and D. Martinez. 2012. A nocturnal flight record of Swainson’s Hawks (Buteo swainsoni) and Turkey Vultures (Cathartes Aura) during fall migration in Costa Rica. Journal of Raptor Research 46:234-235.
2. King, D. I., S. Schlossberg, R. T. Brooks, and M. E. Akresh. 2011. Effects of fuel reduction on birds in pitch pine–scrub oak barrens of the United States. Forest Ecology and Management 261:10-18.
1. Akresh, M. E., K. Dinse, J. Foufopoulos, S. C. Schubel, and T. Kowalczyk. 2009. Passerine breeding and post-fledgling habitat use in riparian and upland temperate forests of the American Midwest. The Condor 111:756-762.
My primary research interests are focused on the following topics:
Effects of shrubland and early-successional forest management on wildlife
Shrublands, early-successional habitats, young forests, and wildlife dependent on these habitats have recently been declining in the eastern United States. One such habitat is pitch pine-scrub oak (PPSO) barrens, which are globally threatened and dependent on fire or other management practices. As part of my Master’s and Ph.D. research, I conducted an extensive 10-year study on prairie warblers in a PPSO barren in Massachusetts, and examined how this at-risk species responds to prescribed burning, mowing, and herbicide treatments. With collaborators, I have also examined management effects on other threatened wildlife species, such as eastern whip-poor-wills and eastern hognose snakes. New projects with Antioch students will entail looking at moth and ant communities in pine barrens in the region. Lastly, I have been working with the USFS and MassAudubon to create a web-based decision support tool for managers and landowners in the northeast, which will allow users to specify on-the-ground silvicultural projects, and a parameterized model will output shrubland birds likely to be present as a result of management treatments. Overall, I am proud and excited that our research efforts and novel work is directly impacting and supporting the management planning of pine barrens and shrublands in the northeast and throughout the U.S.
Conservation and ecology of migratory and resident birds in the Caribbean
Basic knowledge of natural history, wildlife-habitat relationships, and even species taxonomy is infrequently studied and relatively unknown for many species in the tropics, despite high biodiversity in tropical regions and extensive threats to species conservation. During my Ph.D., I have been extensively studying both threatened resident and migratory birds in The Bahamas. Research topics include the impact of moisture on overwintering migratory birds, bird and arthropod communities and habitat relationships, and the ecology and distribution of endangered avian species (e.g., Kirtland’s warbler, West Indian woodpecker). I am also collaborating with other researchers to study avian species taxonomy (e.g., Melanerpes woodpeckers), by examining bird plumage, song, morphometrics, and genetics. I am highly interested in continuing to work in the Caribbean and have a number of research ideas for the future. I would like to focus on understanding basic ecology, distribution, taxonomy, and natural history of other endangered, endemic birds. In my opinion, more tropical research is sorely needed and it has the most potential to impact conservation.
Examining full annual cycles of migratory birds
Migratory birds are dependent on habitat in different locations throughout their life cycles, and there is a growing acknowledgment that more research is needed outside of the breeding season to effectively manage for and conserve migratory populations. I first started research on non-breeding ecology as an undergraduate student, in which I focused on avian habitat use during the post-fledging period. For my Ph.D., I conducted extensive work examining seasonal carry-over effects in prairie warblers, using stable isotope analysis in collaboration with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. In the past few years, I have continued working on this prairie warbler project, collaborating with researchers at the Albany Pine Bush to examine migratory routes and connectivity using geolocators. Our research is helping managers better understand the ecology of migratory birds throughout their entire lifecycle, and how processes such as habitat degradation and climate change influence avian populations.
Natural history, evolution, ecology, and citizen science
I am also interested in natural history, evolution, and ecology. Over the past 10 years, I have been collaborating with other researchers in examining avian natural history and evolution, such as studying bird song, male quality, female selection, and nest structure and insulation. Recently, I have been exploring research using citizen science. Working with the USGS and the Northeast Climate Science Center, I conducted statistical analyses on a project to examine biodiversity and invasive species in U.S. National Parks, using data collected with the citizen science iNaturalist platform during a year-long Bioblitz. I am also working with the USFS and the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch, which is a citizen science project in which volunteers study backyard birds and find and monitor nests along an urban to rural gradient. Citizen science is a great way to obtain large, novel datasets while conducting outreach and educating society about science and conservation.
Wildlife management, wildlife-habitat relationships, applied ecology, ornithology, bird conservation in the Caribbean, applied biostatistics, citizen science
Classes taught or teaching at Antioch University New England:
- Ecology and Conservation in The Bahamas
- Biostatistics (ES 5190)
- Research Strategy I: Theory, Method, and Design - Quantitative (ES 7270-A)
- Vertebrate Ecology: Ornithology (ES 5150)
- Geographic Information Systems: Applied GIS (ES 6105)
- Dissertation Proposal Seminar (ES 7740-A)
- Natural Resources Inventory: Wildlife (ES 5620)
I believe teaching students and setting them on a rewarding path to solve ecological and conservation problems is extremely important and has cascading effects. As an educator, I strive to broaden students’ understanding of the given material being taught, help them develop critical thinking skills, and assist them in applying their skills in future roles as natural resource professionals. In addition, I aspire to help students develop the practical expertise needed to problem-solve real-world conservation and ecological issues. With a strong foundation of quantitative, writing, presentation, and natural resource skills, students can go on to teach their own peers and become leaders in environmental and conservation professions throughout the world.
In terms of my approach to teaching and mentoring, I believe it is important to incorporate a number of key components into my classes and interactions with students. First, I strive to create applied, hands-on classwork, which helps students become more excited about the material and allows them to better understand how it applies in actual real-world circumstances. Because students come from a variety of backgrounds and often learn course material in different ways, I aspire to provide a variety of learning experiences. Course activities can include active participation and discussions among students, team-based as well as individual-based assignments, short lectures, student presentations, and hands-on laboratory and field exercises.
Another important aspect of my teaching philosophy is to constantly evaluate how I am doing as an educator, with the goal of improving not only my own practice, but also student learning. I work to set concrete goals and learning objectives for students, for individual classes and projects, as well as throughout a given course. Through questions, discussions, and assignments, I can then evaluate if students are achieving these goals and learning objectives.
It is also important to me that I maintain an inclusive classroom environment at all times and encourage students to look at environmental issues from a variety of viewpoints. I understand students often have inherently different environmental values, beliefs, and considerations, and I convey to students that these differences expand and enhance discussions about environmental topics, rather than subtracting from them.
I believe we can all have an impact on conservation, management, and policy with dedicated work, and my ultimate teaching and mentoring goal is to convey to students that they too can elicit real change in the world around us.
- Co-Director of the Antioch Spatial Analysis Lab (ASAL)
- Co-Director, The Institute for International Conservation
- Faculty Supervisor of the Antioch University Bird Club
- Journal Referee for Forest Ecology and Management (6x), Journal of Field Ornithology (5x), Ecology and Evolution (4x), Northeastern Naturalist (3x), Avian Research (2x), Austral Ecology (2x), Journal of Thermal Biology (2x), Journal of Zoology, PLoS One, Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Urban Naturalist, Urban Ecosystems, Annales Zoologici Fennici