John Lloyd

Scientist, naturalist, writer

Recent Posts

This post originally appeared in the Journal of Natural History Education & Experience. Natural-history writing comes in many flavors. Sometimes it takes the form of a catalog of observations of plants and animals, other times it presents accounts of exploration and adventure in the wild, and sometimes it is as much about the people as the landscape that shapes them. Nonetheless, perhaps because its subjects and themes appear so constant, it has to me a timeless feel.

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Last December, a team led by scientist Tatsuya Amano from the University of Oxford’s Conservation Science Group published an important paper on waterbird conservation. Using data collected across the globe, they examined population changes over the past 3 decades in 461 species of waterbird, including everything from ducks to shorebirds to flamingos. During this time, waterbirds in some parts of the world thrived, but in other places they experienced steep declines.

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As winter descends and the days become cold and short, most of my birdwatching becomes rather narrowly focused on the feeders outside my front door. A walk through my woods in winter, although lovely in its own right, tends to yield fairly few birds. If I’m lucky, I might come across a noisy flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets, Black-capped Chickadees, and Brown Creepers. Just as easily, though, I can spend an hour wandering through the snow in absolute silence; the trees seem empty of birdlife.

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Late each fall, and then again early in spring, Fox Sparrows visit my backyard. Large and brightly colored, at least by sparrow standards, they are a harbinger of the changing seasons and a delight to watch during their brief stay. Sometimes they even sing during their brief spring stop-over, a beautiful set of downward, slurred whistles. Most field guides and general references depict Fox Sparrows as a bird that nests only in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska and the high mountains of western North America.

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Selected Publications

The breeding range of the Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca) has expanded several hundred kilometers to the south during the past several decades. Once considered a species of Canada’s boreal forest, it now occurs regularly during the summer throughout the high country of the northeastern U.S. and in young stand of fir and spruce throughout the commercial forestland of Maine and New Hampshire.
In PeerJ, 2018

Positive interactions often play an important role in structuring plant communities and increasing biological diversity. Using three scales of resolution, we examine the importance of a long-lived desert tree, ironwood (Olneya tesota), in structuring plant communities and promoting biological diversity in the Sonoran Desert. Overall, Olneya canopies increased biological diversity where abiotic stress was high, but did not increase diversity in more mesic areas.
In Oecologia, 2001

Recent & Upcoming Talks

Projects

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Co-creating a research agenda for biodiversity conservation

Bringing together scientists, conservation practitioners, policy-makers, industry representatives, and conservation financiers to develop a unified strategy for studying and conserving wild nature in Vermont

Natural history of the spruce-fir forests of the northeastern United States

Spruce-fir forests blanket the mountaintops and cold valley bottoms of the northeastern United States. In them live a distinctive mix of plants and animals drawn from environments both north and south, forming a broad link between the great deciduous forests of the eastern United States and massive boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. This project explores the natural history of these forests, with a focus on its wildlife, and the ways in which human use, past and present, influence the nature of this wild landscape. In doing so, I look to answer a straightforward yet difficult question: how, in the face of climate change, growing human populations, and globalized commodity markets, can we sustain the many values provided by these forests, both for people and for wild nature?

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