John Lloyd

Scientist, naturalist, writer

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Last night I did something that I rarely do: I coerced my son into watching a documentary film with me. Obigatory family viewings of “important” movies always feels stilted to me, like making a passenger in your car listen to your favorite song and insisting that they pay close attention to the lyrics. Climate change has been much on my mind this week. Not just because we are enduring yet another early-season heat wave here in the northeastern US, but also because I’m attending the Mind and Life Institute’s Summer Research Institute, which this year has the theme of “The Mind, the Human-Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis”.

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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. For better or worse, the style of the narrative tends towards the uniform, even as the subjects and themes differ widely.

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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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I’m waist-deep in water the color of over-steeped tea, feet sinking into the soft, sucking mud of the coastal Everglades. My wet, salty pants chafe miserably at the back of my legs. All around me stand red mangroves, aerial roots spreading out like the legs of some enormous spider. Stretched across a low branch just above the water is a mangrove salt marsh snake, warming itself in the morning’s first rays of sun.

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How can we make roads safer for wildlife and for drivers? In this video, produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Peter Singleton and I discuss the problems that roads pose for wildlife and offer up some potential solutions. Originally broadcast as Episode 1801 of OBP’s “Oregon Field Guide”.

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Selected Publications

We estimated that about 71,000 Bicknell’s Thrush live in the United States. Combined with existing estimates of about 50,000 individuals living in Canada, we expect that the global population of this species is no more than about 120,000 individuals. In the US, most of the population is found on protected lands, with the White Mountain National Forest providing habitat for an estimated 31% of the US population.
In Ecosphere, 2021

Hurricanes Irma and Maria were among the most damaging storms ever to sweep across Puerto Rico. The toll on the island’s people was enormous. We wondered how wildlife, especially birds, fared. By revisting, after the storms had passed, locations that we had surveyed for birds in 2015, we found that some species weathered these storms well - perhaps not surprising given the frequency with which tropical storms pass over the islands of the Caribbean - but others, especially, frugivores, declined following the storms. Hurricanes are neither categorically good nor categorically bad for wildlife.
In PLoS ONE, 2021

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?