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Darin ("DJ") McNeil is an applied quantitative wildlife ecologist who joined the SESYNC team in early 2021. His work bridges the fields of fundamental population ecology and applied conservation biology. Although DJ has experience working across a breadth of ecological communities, most of his work focuses on forested systems and improving forest management regimes. Likewise, his research is not bound by particular animal taxa; however, most of his background has focused on imperiled bird and insect populations. At SESYNC, DJ’s research aims to combine field data on forest songbird populations with Light Detection and Ranging data (LiDAR) from across the state of Pennsylvania to assess the extent to which dynamic forest management might benefit imperiled bird populations in the region. This work is important because ornithological research increasingly suggests that forest managers should strive to diversify forest structure as a means to accommodate the life history needs of a wide variety of bird species; however, this idea is largely theoretical in nature. Our team ultimately hopes to develop ecological models to predict avian community responses to forest management that will, in turn, provide land managers with better tools for planning/developing forest management regimes across the Appalachians.
Before starting at SESYNC, DJ worked as a post-doctoral scholar at the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in the Department of Entomology studying how sensitive insect populations respond to a variety of landscape stressors. This work involved varied insect taxa including a local study on katydids, a statewide project on bumble bee diseases, and a nationwide study on fireflies. Although his work at Penn State involved varied taxa, these projects helped assess how factors like pesticide exposure and habitat loss/degradation impact some of North America’s most vulnerable invertebrate populations. In spring 2019, DJ earned his doctorate from Cornell University where he studied in the Department of Natural Resources and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. At Cornell, his dissertation chapters (and associated publications) were focused on assessing how imperiled bird species respond to widespread habitat restoration across eastern North America. This work provided novel insights as to how migratory bird species respond to silvicultural practices from both population and demographic perspectives. The impacts of DJ’s doctoral work include direct changes to state and federal management guidelines for a songbird species of dire conservation concern.
For additional information regarding DJ McNeil’s research and associated work, please visit: darinjmcneil.weebly.com/.