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I enjoy using quantitative methods to study ecology and conservation biology at organizational scales ranging from populations to ecosystems. My studies tend to use fieldwork to find ways to conserve native biodiversity in riparian and terrestrial ecosystems threatened by urbanization, tourism, &/or climate change.

Study Species and Communities

  • American dipper
  • Benthic macroinvertebrate communities in high elevation streams
  • Bird communities in temperate mixed forest
  • Chinese privet
  • Hawaiian spinner dolphin


Study Sites

Non-authoring Research Collaborators

  • Georgia Audubon
  • Hawai’i Dept. of Land and Natural Resources
  • Institute for Bird Populations
  • King County, WA
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • Turner Endangered Species Fund

Opportunities for Students

I have two standing research projects in which students can participate to gain experience. The first is a study of the behavioral ecology of eastern bluebirds breeding in nestboxes on campus. The second is a study that uses a standard protocol to repeatedly catch, identify, age, sex, and mark birds breeding in the forest on campus. IBP pools our data with those from ~300 other stations in North America in order to describe longterm trends in avian productivity and survivorship across North America and the causes of those trends. We are fortunate to have one of the two MAPS stations operating in GA. Occasionally, I get excited and start a new research project…sometimes even one that doesn’t involve birds (e.g., see Donnelly et al. 2021 below and article in The Source).

[see more pics & videos from the field & info on the MAPS Program]

If you want to participate in one of my standing research projects or you want to propose your own ecological research project for an independent study, find me in person or via email to start a conversation.

Acknowledgement of Research Assistance (Mahalo!)

  • Impacts of fishery restoration on American dippers (Donnelly 2018): Daniel Brown (OU BIO ’09), Ben Corey (OU BIO ’06), Harlo Hadow (Coe College), Carter Kruse (Turner Enterprises, Inc.), Sarah Lykens (OU BIO ’07), & Alex Michaud (Coe College BIO).
  • Educational signage for dolphin conservation (Donnelly et al. 2021): Christl Donnelly & Alex Prots (OU BIO ’20).
  • Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship: Jaziba Bahri (OU BIO ’23), Josh Escobar (OU BIO ’24), Zach Jackson (OU BIO ’23), & Sydney Trammell (OU BIO ’24).

Research Publications

Donnelly, R, A Prots (OU BIO ’20), C Donnelly. 2021. Better educational signage could reduce disturbance of resting dolphins. PLoS ONE 16:e0248732.

Donnelly, R. 2018. Impact of piscicides extends beyond targets and toxicity. Restoration Ecology 26:1075-1081.

Donnelly, R, T Katzner, IJ Gordon, ME Gompper, S Redpath, TWJ Garner, R Altwegg, DH Reed, K Acevedo-Whitehouse, N Pettorelli. 2011. Putting the eco back in ecotourism. Animal Conservation 14:325-327.

Lepczyk, CA, R Donnelly. 2011. A beginner’s guide to reviewing manuscripts in ecology and conservation. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 4:25-31.

Fleishman, E, R Donnelly, JP Fay, R Reeves. 2007. Applications of nestedness analysis to biodiversity conservation in developing landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 81:271-281.

Donnelly, R, JM Marzluff. 2006. Relative importance of habitat quantity, structure, and spatial pattern to birds in an urbanizing region. Urban Ecosystems 9:99-117.

Donnelly, R, JM Marzluff. 2004. Importance of reserve size and landscape context to urban bird conservation. Conservation Biology 18:733-745.

Marzluff, JM, R Bowman, R Donnelly. 2001. A historical perspective on urban bird research: Trends, topics, and definitions. Pages 1-18 in JM Marzluff, R Bowman, R Donnelly, editors. Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell.

Marzluff, JM, KJ McGowan, R Donnelly, R Knight. 2001. Causes and consequences of expanding American Crow populations in urban environments. Pages 331-364 in JM Marzluff, R Bowman, R Donnelly, editors. Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell.

Donnelly, R, K Sullivan. 1998. Foraging proficiency and body condition in juvenile American Dippers. The Condor 100:385-388.