I’m Sarah Saunders, a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University. I am a member of the Zipkin Quantitative Ecology Lab within the Dept. of Integrative Biology. Previously, I received a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology (March 2015) from University of Minnesota and a B.A. in Biology (2010) from Washington University in St. Louis.
My goal is to understand the impacts of climate change, land-use, and other anthropogenic factors on current and future vital rates and abundances of populations, especially those in decline. Specifically, I seek to develop advanced statistical models using long-term data sets (both researcher-collected and citizen science) to investigate broad-scale patterns and processes. My research encompasses a wide variety of taxa, including birds, insects, and mammals.
Currently, I am modeling monarch butterfly population abundances across eastern North America. I use long-term citizen science data and Bayesian hierarchical models to tease apart the potential factors causing observed declines, while accounting for biases associated with data collected by non-scientists.
Previously, my dissertation research investigated the causes and consequences of individual variation in survival and fecundity of Great Lakes piping plovers, an endangered shorebird. I used various analytical methods which took advantage of 20 years of banding data, including survival analyses in Program MARK and quantitative genetic analyses in R.
Please see my Research page or CV (below) for more information and my list of publications.
One of my favorite parts of my PhD was the field work–I enjoyed 5 summers on the beaches of the Great Lakes (primarily in Michigan) working to protect the plovers through nest exclosures, partial beach closures, abandoned egg collection and captive-rearing, as well as banding all adults and chicks annually. Check out a video of our crew banding chicks here! In addition to being the field crew and banding lead, I coordinated with other partners (USFWS, WI DNR, Environment Canada) in piping plover recovery throughout the Great Lakes to establish region-wide banding protocols and centralize data collection and management.
In my spare time, I love spending time outside (especially along Lake Michigan in the summer), reading, doing yoga, playing the clarinet, and traveling to new places.
Please see my abbreviated CV: Saunders CV.