Meet the Team

The Wilcove Team
(aka The Drongos)

Professor David S. Wilcove

David S. Wilcove (professor): Members of my research group tackle a range of topics around the world, but in all of our work we strive to use a combination of ecology, economics, and policy research to find workable solutions to challenging conservation issues. Recent or ongoing projects include: studies of the impact of logging and oil-palm agriculture on biodiversity in Southeast Asia; impact of the cage-bird trade on Indonesian birds; conservation of migratory animals; factors affecting the distribution of birds along elevational gradients in the Himalayas; reforestation and forest recovery in China, Costa Rica, and Peru; and the impacts of hunting on wildlife in China. Prior to joining the Princeton faculty in 2001, I served as senior ecologist with the Environmental Defense Fund (1991-2001) and The Wilderness Society (1986-1991). I am an avid birdwatcher who cannot forgive himself for missing the Hawaiian Crow in 1996, but who did see the last wild Spix’s Macaw in Brazil in 1993.

Zuzanna Zuzana Burivalova (postdoc): I am interested in how we can improve tropical forest management in order to find the right balance between biodiversity protection and a reasonable use of forest resources. One of the questions I will be trying to answer during my postoctoral fellowship in Princeton is this: is it better, in terms of biodiversity, to intensify timber extraction in tropical forests, and reduce the area needed for production, or is it better to use a larger part of forest, but at a lower intensity? In order to find the answer, I will also need to investigate how biodiversity responds to forest use at broader spatial scales, as our understanding is currently limited to changes within small forest plots. The interface between biodiversity protection and human use of forest resources is particularly relevant in buffer zones of national parks and other protected areas, and that is where I will focus my research efforts.

I completed my PhD at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland, with Lian Pin Koh, looking at factors that determine the responses of animal diversity to selective logging in tropical forests. Before that, I studied masters in environmental science in Geneva, and undergraduate biology at Oxford University. In between, I worked in the United Nations Environment Programme on the impacts of conflicts and disaster on the environment.
Paul Elsen

Paul Elsen (postdoc): My primary research interests are broadly situated in the fields of conservation biology and bio-geography. There are two main goals of my dissertation research stemming from these interests. The first is to determine the factors that limit the distribution of birds along altitudinal gradients. To accomplish this I am conducting bird surveys along two elevational gradients in the western Himalayas that differ in terms of species richness, climate patterns, and habitat types. The second goal is to assess how disturbance from grazing, agriculture, and logging are impacting Himalayan bird communities both on their breeding and wintering grounds. This is possible in light of the close proximity of breeding and wintering ranges of many species that undergo short-distance altitudinal migrations. A bonus third goal is to rediscover the Himalayan Quail, an extremely rare and secretive bird last seen in 1876 (and now thought to be extinct) very close to one of my study sites.

Prior to becoming a Drongo, I received my BA from UC Berkeley in 2006. I conducted fieldwork throughout California and upstate New York, in Patagonia in Argentina, and in the Peruvian Amazon. In addition to fieldwork, I also conducted geospatial analysis for two conservation NGOs, the Wilderness Society and Oceana, as well as for the United States Geological Survey.


Fangyuan Hua (postdoc): I am an avian ecologist, behavioral ecologist, and conservation biologist. My main research interest revolves around understanding how avian and other biodiversity are impacted by anthropogenic habitat degradation, and how management and conservation strategies could intervene to alleviate such impacts. For my research at Princeton University in the Wilcove lab, I will be focusing on the issues of forest loss and degradation, land cover change, and biodiversity conservation in Southern China, particularly the large extent of lowland areas that traditionally receive not much conservation attention. Lowland natural forest in China has undergone profound changes in recent history. Despite the country’s large scale reforestation efforts in the past few decades, forest biodiversity still faces a number of challenges including urbanization, agriculture intensification, and probably above all, the unsuitability of existing reforested habitats that are dominated by a single or few tree species. I will assess the current status of habitat and avian biodiversity in existing forested landscapes in Southern China, and analyze the historical and socio-economic factors underlying such status. These understanding will be critical for informing policies pertaining to land use planning, reforestation and forest management for more effective biodiversity conservation in the region. For information please see my website.

Janice Lee Janice Ser Huay Lee (postdoc): My research interests span the fields of Conservation Biology, Land Use Change, and Agriculture. Much of my work focuses on the social and ecological consequences of human impacts on the environment especially within Southeast Asia. After having worked on a range of topics in conservation (wildlife trade, invertebrate ecology, habitat fragmentation), I now focus on the conservation and development challenges faced in the context of commercial and small-scale agricultural expansion in the rural tropics. I am deeply interested in the linkages and feedbacks among socio-political, economic and ecological systems, and apply a combination of socioeconomic techniques, geospatial analysis, and simulation modeling in my research to investigate socio-ecological systems. I completed my PhD in Environmental Sciences at ETH Zurich. I have a background in ecology and obtained my M.Sc. from the Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. During my free time, I enjoy swimming, climbing and visiting art museums.

Umesh Srinivasan (postdoc): My primary research

interests lie in understanding how various forms of human-induced forest conversion impact biodiversity. My PhD looked at how selective logging affects the demography of understorey insectivorous birds in the Eastern Himalaya. My other research areas have been in trying to unravel how multiple species associate with each other on mixed-species bird flocks, and in biogeography, especially the biogeography of the Himalayan mountain range.

I received a PhD from the National Centre for Biological Sciences in India, before which I completed by Master's in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from the WCS-India, Centre for Wildlife Studies and NCBS programme in Bangalore. In a previous life, I was also trained as a medical doctor.

Charlotte Chang (graduate student): For my dissertation research, I am investigating how hunting shapes communities of birds and mammals. This project seeks to understand the foraging ecology of hunters through interviews and field tracking, and the impact of hunting on the distribution of mammals and birds. I am currently doing field work in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture. I am highly interested in conservation governance in the developing world with the aim of 1) understanding why local people engage in illegal resource extraction and 2) examining how conservation policy can be better enforced.

Before beginning my Ph.D., I led a project studying how invasive Spartina alterniflora affected the breeding success of saltmarsh birds in China's Chongming Island with Zhijun Ma (Fudan University). I have also worked as a field technician for the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue) assessing how marine mammals and birds responded to the creation of a new marine protected area off the Central Coast of California, and have worked for the Bureau of Land Management in Montana conducting surveys of breeding grassland birds. For more information, please see my website

Tong Mu (graduate student): My research interests lie in the field of avian ecology and conservation, especially that of shorebirds migrating along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Combining field study, individual tracking and mathematical modeling, I plan to identify the factors affecting their selections of migration routes and stopover sites, and to see whether the understanding of shorebirds migration patterns can be extended to that of other migratory birds.

Prior to joining the Drongos, I received my B.S. from Peking University in 2014, and during my time there, I became an avid birdwatcher and also became aware of the conservation issues pertaining to birds and other organisms.
Jacob Socolar Jacob Socolar (graduate student): I am an ecologist and conservation biologist with broad interests in community dynamics, tropical forests, and avian biology. My dissertation focuses on determinants of avian community structure in Peruvian Amazonia, home to the richest bird assemblages on Earth. I seek to document how bird communities change in response to smallholder agricultural practices, with the goal of understanding to what extent this ubiquitous form of land-use is compatible with biodiversity conservation. At the same time, I use anthropogenic variation in land use, coupled with natural variation in soils and flooding regimes, to understand the determinants of community structure in the heterogeneous, hyperdiverse forests of upper Amazonia.

I also have keen interests in theoretical ecology (particularly mechanisms of species coexistence and stochastic models of community dynamics) and newly available large datasets (e.g. Project eBird) I especially value my intuition as a naturalist as I venture into these more abstract territories.

Please see my website for more.

Tim Treuer

Tim Treuer (graduate student): My research interests fall broadly in the intersection of community ecology, tropical biology, and conservation. For my dissertation I am studying regenerating tropical dry forest in Costa Rica, trying to understand what modulates the biodiversity value of these young habitats (or to frame it another way, what deterministic and stochastic forces shape the community structure and composition in these successional landscapes). My study system is El Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, one of the world's largest tropical forest restoration projects. Using audio recorders, camera traps, and other tools, I hope to help zero in on the optimal role for large-scale forest restoration in preserving biodiversity through the mitigation of extinction debt.

Prior to Princeton, I got a A.B. degree from Harvard in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (2010) and spent a year working on reforestation and mosquito ecology projects in Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia as a Richardson Fellow in Public Service. At Princeton I am also pursuing a PEI-STEP fellowship and do events planning with the Graduate School as a Community Associate. I am a huge fan of camping, diving and all things Alaska.

Drongos 2014

On a cold day in March 2014, all of the Drongos were together in Princeton for the first time in over a year. Todd Reichart (Chemistry Department) took this historic photo to commemorate the event.

Drongos 2013

This photo from February 2013 represents a rare occasion when all of the Drongos were together at the same time on the Princeton Campus. Usually at least one of us is in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, China, India, Korea, Peru, Ecuador, or even Tennessee.



Drongo Alumni

Bethany Bradley (former postdoc): Bethany studied the impact of climate change on invasive plants for the Western USA from 2006-2006. She is now at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

David Edwards ("The Great Argus") (former postdoc): David studied patterns of biodiversity in primary once-logged and twice logged forests in Southeast Asia. He is now at the University of Sheffield.

Lyndon Estes (former postdoc): Lyndon modeled how climate change is likely to shift maize and wheat cultivation in South Africa, as well the implications of those shifts to biodiversity. He is currently in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton.

Brendan Fisher ("Grosbeak") (former postdoc): Brendan studied the economics of logging and oil palm agriculture in Southeast Asia.  After three years at the World Wildlife Fund (post-drongo), he moved to the University of Vermont.

Xingli Giam (former graduate student): studied the conservation of freshwater biodiversity in Southeast Asia from 2009-2014. He is currently at the University of Washington.

Jonathan Green (former postdoc): studied the ecological and socioeconomic issues related to the conservation of shorebirds (e.g. spoon-billed sandpiper) wintering in Southeast Asia during 2012-2014. He is currently at the University of Cambridge.

Nathan Gregory (former graduate student): Nathan studied how prescribed fire and Massai pastoralism affected bird diversity in the Sayannas of East Africa. He is currently at USAID.

Bert Harris (former postdoc): studied the impact of the bird trade in populations of wild birds in Indonesia from 2012-2015. He is currently at The Rainforest Trust.

Josh Hooker (former postdoc): From 2005-2008, Josh studied the impacts of climate change on bird communities in North America. He is currently at the University of Reading.

Lian Pin Koh (former graduate student): Pin was a graduate student from 2004-2008, studying the impacts of oil-palm agriculture on biodiversity in Southeast Asia. He is at the University of Adelaide.

Trond Larsen (former postdoc ): Trond was a WWF Fuller Postdoctoral Fellow from 2008-2010. He used dung beetles as a model system for developing conservation strategies in the Andes-Amazonia region. He is now at Conservation International.

Dave Marvin (former research assistant): From 2006-2008, Dave created a novel web-mapping system to collect data on the distribution and abundance of invasive plants in the Southeast U.S. He is at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Emily Nicholson (former postdoc): Emily was a postdoc from 2006-2007. Working in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, she developed new quantitative methods for assessing progress in biodiversity conservation. She is now at Deakin University.

David Pattemore (former graduate student):  David studied how the loss of native vertebrates in New Zealand has affected the pollination ecology of the native plants there; he also studied the degree to which non-native vertebrates are assuming the pollination roles of the missing natives. He currently is with Plant & Food Research in New Zealand.

Morgan Tingley (former postdoc): explored the factors driving long-term changes in the avifauna of the Great Smokies Mountains from 2012-2014 with support from David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program. He is now at the University of Connecticut.

Will Turner (former postdoc): Will was a post-doctoral fellow from 2003-2006, working on issues pertaining to reserve design and management. He is with Conservation International.

Charles Yackulic (former postdoc): Charles modeled the spatial and population dynamics of spotted owls and barred owls in the Pacific Northwest. He currently is with the USGS Biological Resources Division.