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I am an integrative applied ecologist, broadly interested in how organisms respond to changing environments. Although much of my research aims to understand natural population drivers such as predator-prey interactions, density-dependence, and stochasticity, my questions are frequently couched within the context of relevant anthropogenic threats including habitat alteration, pollution, invasive species, and climate change. My primary taxonomic focus is on reptiles and amphibians for three important reasons: 1) Theyhave always fascinated me; 2) they are critical components of many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems but are among the most imperiled vertebrates; and 3) their unique ecological and life-history characteristics lead to interesting, but poorly understood, emergent population, community, and ecosystem-level processes. My research uses descriptive, experimental, and theoretical approaches to understand mechanisms underlying population dynamics and landscape-scale patterns of distribution and abundance.




I grew up in New England where an early passion for natural history prompted me to pursue a career in the biological sciences. I received my B.S. in biology from Davidson College where I studied the effects of land use and urbanization on stream salamander populations.


After SREL, I moved to Virginia Tech for a post-doc under the guidance of Bill Hopkins focused primarily on evaluating the impacts of environmental mercury pollution on amphibians and semi-aquatic reptiles. A major focus of my work at Virginia Tech was developing population models to synthesize experimentally derived effects of Hg on amphibians and predict population and landscape level effects.

I joined the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2012 where I continue basic and applied research on amphibians, aquatic reptiles, and invasive snakes.

In my spare time, I enjoy the recreational side of wildlife ecology through avid pursuit of fishing, birding, herping, hiking, wildlife photography, SCUBA/freediving, and other outdoor activities.


I went on to pursue my doctorate in Ecology under Whit Gibbons at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL). My dissertation research used multidisciplinary techniques (intensive field population monitoring, stable isotope food web studies, laboratory feeding experiments, and theoretical population modeling) to examine aquatic snake population dynamics and evaluate the critical roles that snakes play as predators within wetland ecosystems. I was also fortunate to become involved in research on the ecology, impacts, and potential for range expansion of invasive Burmese Pythons in the Florida Everglades.


J.D. Willson, Ph.D.
John (J.D.) Willson
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Office: SCEN 630
Phone: 479-575-2647
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