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Joseph M. Wunderle, Jr.

Joseph M. Wunderle, Jr.
Wildlife Team Leader
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Sabana Field Research Station
Rte 988, km 6.5, Barrio Sabana
Luquillo, PR 00773
United States
Current Research

Current research focuses on the ecology, distribution, and conservation of an endangered Nearctic-Neotropical migrant bird, the Kirtland's Warbler and associated species on the wintering grounds in The Bahamas. Because the warbler feeds on a mixed fruit and arthropod diet we are also studying abundance and phenology of the warbler's favored fruits as well as abundance of arthropod prey and the factors that affect the abundance of these food resources. Current research also involves studies to determine how the habitat is produced and maintained. Because our studies have focused primarily on the island of Eleuthera, we are now also conducting winter surveys of the warbler on other islands of the Bahamas archipelago to document variation in warbler habitat use and abundance.

Past Research

Previous research includes diverse studies mostly on birds: Avian song variation during development and its role in species and individual recognition; breeding ecology, social behavior and a morph ratio cline in the Bananaquit (a nectarivorous Caribbean songbird); response of avian nectarivores to variation in food supplies; development of avian foraging behavior; distribution and ecology of overwintering Nearctic-Neotropical migrant birds in the Caribbean; the effects of hurricanes on terrestrial bird populations and their food resources; role of animal seed dispersal in accelerating native forest regeneration on degraded tropical lands; the contribution of shade coffee plantations to avian diversity in agricultural landscapes; movements and habitat use of the Puerto Rican boa; and bird and bat diversity of terra firme forest in Amazonian Brazil and its response to treefall gaps and reduced-impact logging.

Research Interest

Ecology, behavior and conservation biology of Neotropical birds and Nearctic-Neotropical migrant birds and their response to human and natural disturbances with the objective of identifying or devising management practices to ameliorate adverse effects. Interests also include disturbance ecology, especially the effects of hurricanes and droughts on tropical wildlife and their food resources.

Why This Research Is Important

My Forest Service research focuses on natural or anthropogenic disturbances that may negatively affect sensitive, threatened or endangered tropical wildlife with the goal of identifying and developing management actions that will ameliorate effects of these disturbances. The basic goal in my research, teaching, outreach, and capacity building activities is to help preserve tropical forest biodiversity. This biodiversity plays an important role in ecosystem services such as plant pollination and seed dispersal. regulating services by scavenging carcasses and waste, controlling populations of invertebrates and vertabrates pests, as well as importance for many forms of outdoor recreation and ecotourism, and is recognized for cultural and intrinsic values.

  • Univ. of Minnesota, Ph.D., Ecology & Beahvior, 1980
  • University of Minnesota, M.S., Ecology & Behavior, 1976
  • University of Maine, B.S., Biology, 1971
Professional Experience
  • Wildlife Team Leader & Research Wildlife Biologist,  International Institute of Tropical Forestry,  1988 - Current
  • Associate Professor of Biology,  University of Puerto Rico, Cayey, PR,  1985 - 1990
  • Assistant Professor of Biology,  University of Puerto Rico, Cayey, PR,  1982 - 1985
  • Course Coordinator & Instructor,  Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica,  1982 - 1982
    Responsible for a graduate tropical ecology field course in Costa Rica
  • Post-doctoral research,  Independent researcher, Grenada & Tobago, West Indies,  1981 - 1982
    Funded by several competitive grants
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Zoology,  Dept. of Biology, North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, NC,  1980 - 1981
  • Assistant Course Coordinator,  Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica,  1979 - 1979
    Assisted coordinating and running a graduate tropical ecology field course in Costa Rica
  • Director & Headmaster,  Canadian Junior College for Marine Biology, Carriacou, Grenada, W.I.,  1977 - 1978
    Responsible for 45 students, 6 instructors, & 18 local support staff in this private school accredited by Ontario Ministry of Education.
  • Instructor,  Canadian Junior College for Marine Biology, Carriacou, Grenada, W.I.,  1975 - 1976
    Instructor for grade 13 (Ontario) ecology and human evolution and assisted in lab and field in marine biology for two years 1975-76 & 1977-78
Professional Organizations
  • President,  Neotropical Ornithological Society,  2007 - 2011
  • Chair, Francois Vuilleumier Fund For Student Research,  Neotropical Ornithological Society,  2004 - 2008
  • Co-Chair Scientific Program, Neotropical Ornithological Congress,  Neotropical Ornithological Society,  2007 - 2007
  • President Elect,  Neotropical Ornithological Society,  2004 - 2007
  • President,  Society for Caribbean Ornithology,  1995 - 1997
  • Vice President,  Society for Caribbean Ornithology,  1991 - 1995
Awards & Recognition
  • Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award, 2015
    From the American Ornithologists Union in recognition of "extraordinary scientific contributions to the conservation, restoration, and preservation of birds and their habitats".
  • President's Award, 2011
    From Soc. for Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds for contributions to the Soc. and bird conservation in Bahamas & Caribbean
  • Research & Management Partnership Award, 2005
    From Wings Across the Americas program, USDA FS for Kirtland's Warbler Research & Training Project in Bahamas; shared with other participants.
  • Investigations Award, 2003
    From Partner's in Flight, for research findings of the Kirtland's Warbler Research & Training project in The Bahamas
  • Distinguished Service Award, 2003
    For distinguished service to the Society for Caribbean Ornithology
  • Fellow, 1993
    American Ornithologists Union
  • Elected Member, 1985
    American Ornithologists Union
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Have bird distributions shifted along an elevation gradient with climate change over a 17-year period in El Yunque National Forest?

Year: 2018
Expected elevational shifts in bird distributions with global warming may be species-specific and, hence not readily predictable for many bird species.

Winter Ecology and Conservation Implications for the Endangered Migrant Kirtland's Warbler in the Bahamas

Year: 2014
Winter droughts reduce the endangered Kirtland's Warbler's food supply and body condition in the Bahamas, which affect its survival and breeding in North America; therefore, conservation efforts in the Bahamas archipelago should focus on protecting the least drought-prone early successional habitats...

When Insectivorous Birds Want to Forage in Puerto Rico, What Trees do They Prefer?

Year: 2013
High foliage palatability of some alien tree species may weaken the effect of the so-called enemy release that occurs when introduction of a plant species allows the plant to escape its specialized enemies from its homeland and prosper in its new environment.