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Joseph L. Ganey

field work in southern Arizona

Research Wildlife Biologist

2500 South Pine Knoll Drive
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Contact Joseph L. Ganey

Current Research

• Occupancy and reproduction of Mexican spotted owls twelve plus years after the rodeo-Chediski fire
• Effects of high-severity wildfire on Mexican spotted owls • Multi-scale habitat relationships of Mexican spotted owls
• Monitoring dynamics of snag and log populations in southwestern mixed-conifer and ponderosa pine forests.
• Evaluating fire effects on bird and small mammal communities
• Developing sampling designs and optimizing resources for monitoring programs
• Assessing large-scale effects of wildfire and climate change on bird and vegetation communities in the Sky Islands, Arizona

Research Interests

• Multi-scale habitat relationships of native wildlife • Linking demography and habitat at multiple scales • Ecology of southwestern forests • Conservation of threatened and endangered species • Development and refinement of efficient monitoring methods • Ecology and demography of the Mexican spotted owl • Dynamics of snags in southwestern forests • Effects of climate change on native wildlife and their habitats.

Past Research

Selected papers across research areas:
Wan, H-Y., S. A. Cushman, and J. L. Ganey. 2019. Improving habitat and connectivity model predictions with multi-scale resource selection functions from two geographic areas. Landscape Ecology.
Sanderlin, J. S., W. M. Block, B. E. Strohmeyer, J. L. Ganey, and V. A. Saab. 2019. Precision gain versus effort with joint models using detection/non-detection and banding data. Ecology and Evolution 9:804-817.
Wan, H-Y., S. A. Cushman, and J. L. Ganey. 2018. Habitat fragmentation reduces genetic diversity and connectivity of the Mexican spotted owl: a simulation study using empirical resistance models. Genes 9, 403; doi:10.3390/genes9080403.
Ganey, J. L., H. Y. Wan, S. A. Cushman, and C. D. Vojta. 2017. Conflicting perspectives on spotted owls, wildfire, and forest restoration. Fire Ecology 13(3). Doi: 10.4996/fireecology.130318020.
Ganey, J. L, J. M. Iniguez, J. A. Sanderlin, and W. M. Block. 2017. Developing a Monitoring Program for Bird Populations in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, Using Citizen Observers: Initial Stages. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-368. 30 pp.
Ganey, J. L. 2016. Recommendations for snag retention in southwestern mixed-conifer and ponderosa pine forests: history and current status. Wildlife Society Bulletin 40:192-201.
Ganey, J. L., W. M. Block, J. S. Sanderlin, and J. M. Iníguez. 2015. Comparative nest site use of painted redstarts and red-faced warblers in the Madrean Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona. Western North American Naturalist 75:291-300.

Why This Research is Important

Land managers require high-quality scientific information to meet the many challenges inherent in managing public lands. This includes information on basic ecology of native species at various spatial and temporal scales, information on the dynamics of the systems those species inhabit, and information on how various management actions affect those dynamics. Managers also need more efficient monitoring methodologies, as well as ways to integrate monitoring data in management planning. These needs are critical for managing public lands for sustainability and conservation of biodiversity in an era of changing climates and increasing demand on natural resources. This research addresses these information needs, providing information that allows for improved management and conservation of natural resources.


  • Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, B.S., Wildlife Management, 1981
  • Northern Arizona University, M.S., Biology, 1988
  • Northern Arizona University, Ph.D., Zoology, 1991
  • Professional Experience

    Research Wildlife Biologist, US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
    1991 to present


    Wings Across the Americas Conservation Award., 2018
    Presented to the international team working to conserve the Mexican spotted owl, led by Dr. Ganey. International Forestry Program, Washington Office, USFS. Washington, D.C.
    Rocky Mountain Research Station 2017 Conservation Education Award., 2018
    Team award to the Wildlife and Terrestrial Ecosystems Program, including Dr. Ganey.
    Rocky Mountain Research Station Technology Transfer Publication Award, 2011
    Annual award for outstanding publication in technology transfer.
    USDI Conservation Service Award for extraordinary service in the conservation of Americas wildlife., 1999
    This is the highest award given by the Department of Interior to persons not employed by the Department.
    Wildlife Habitat Relationships Award., 1996
    Presented for outstanding contributions to Arizona's wildlife habitat resources.

    Featured Publications


    Stephens, Scott; Kobziar, Leda; Collins, Brandon; Davis, Raymond; Fulé, Peter; Gaines, William; Ganey, Joseph L.; Guldin, James; Hessburg, Paul; Hiers, Kevin; Hoagland, Serra J.; Keane, John; Masters, Ronald; McKellar, Ann; Montague, Warren; North, Malcolm; Spies, Thomas A., 2019. Is fire “for the birds”? How two rare species influence fire management across the US
    Sanderlin, Jamie S.; Block, William M.; Strohmeyer, Brenda E.; Saab, Victoria A.; Ganey, Joseph L., 2019. Precision gain versus effort with joint models using detection/non‐detection and banding data
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Iniguez, Jose; Hedwall, Shaula; Block, William M.; Ward, James P. Jr.; Jonnes, Ryan S.; Rawlinson, Todd A.; Kyle, Sean C.; Apprill, Darrell L., 2016. Evaluating desired conditions for Mexican spotted owl nesting and roosting habitat
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Bird, Benjamin J.; Baggett, Scott; Jenness, Jeffrey S., 2015. Density of large snags and logs in northern Arizona mixed-conifer and ponderosa pine forests
    Ganey, Joseph L.; White, Gary C.; Jenness, Jeffrey S.; Vojta, Scott C., 2015. Mark-recapture estimation of snag standing rates in northern Arizona mixed-conifer and ponderosa pine forests
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Apprill, Darrell L.; Rawlinson, Todd A.; Kyle, Sean C.; Jonnes, Ryan S.; Ward, James P. Jr., 2014. Breeding dispersal of Mexican Spotted Owls in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Kyle, Sean C.; Rawlinson, Todd A.; Apprill, Darrell L.; Ward, James P Jr., 2014. Relative abundance of small mammals in nest core areas and burned wintering areas of Mexican spotted owls in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Ward, James P. Jr; Jenness, Jeffrey S.; Block, William M.; Hedwall, Shaula; Jonnes, Ryan S.; Apprill, Darrell L.; Rawlinson, Todd A.; Kyle, Sean C.; Spangle, Steven L., 2014. Use of protected activity centers by Mexican Spotted Owls in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Apprill, Darrell L.; Rawlinson, Todd A.; Kyle, Sean C.; Jonnes, Ryan S.; Ward, James P. Jr., 2013. Nesting habitat of Mexican spotted owls in the Sacramento Mountains
    Sanderlin, Jamie S.; Block, William M.; Ganey, Joseph L.; Iniguez, Jose, 2013. Preliminary assessment of species richness and avian community dynamics in the Madrean Sky Islands, Arizona
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Block, William M.; Ward, James P. Jr.; Strohmeyer, Brenda E., 2005. Home range, habitat use, survival, and fecundity of Mexican spotted owls in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
    Block, William M.; Ganey, Joseph L.; Scott, Peter E.; King, Rudy M., 2005. Prey ecology of Mexican spotted owls in pine-oak forests of northern Arizona
    Jenness, Jeffrey S.; Beier, Paul; Ganey, Joseph L., 2004. Associations between forest fire and Mexican spotted owls
    Ganey, Joseph L.; White, Gary C.; Bowden, David C.; Franklin, Alan B., 2004. Evaluating methods for monitoring populations of Mexican spotted owls: A case study
    Bowden, David C.; White, Gary C.; Franklin, Alan B.; Ganey, Joseph L., 2003. Estimating population size with correlated sampling unit estimates
    White, Gary C.; Block, William M.; Ganey, Joseph L.; Moir, William H.; Ward, James P. Jr.; Franklin, Alan B.; Spangle, Steven L.; Rinkevich, Sarah E.; Vahle, J. Robert; Howe, Frank P.; Dick, James L. Jr., 1999. Science verses political reality in delisting criteria for a threatened species: The Mexican spotted owl experience
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Block, William M.; Dwyer, Jill K.; Strohmeyer, Brenda E.; Jenness, Jeffrey S., 1998. Dispersal movements and survival rates of juvenile Mexican Spotted Owls in northern Arizona
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Block, William M.; Jenness, Jeffrey S.; Wilson, Randolph A., 1998. Mexican spotted owl home range and habitat use in pine-oak forest: Implications for forest management
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Block, William M.; Jenness, Jeffrey S.; Wilson, Randolph A., 1997. Comparative habitat use of sympatric Mexican spotted and great horned owls
    Finch, Deborah M.; Ganey, Joseph L.; Yong, Wang; Kimball, Rebecca T.; Sallabanks, Rex, 1997. Effects and interactions of fire, logging, and grazing
    Ganey, Joseph L., 1997. Spotted Owl: Strix occidentalis
    Block, William M.; Finch, Deborah M.; Ganey, Joseph L.; Moir, William H., 1997. Summary (Songbird ecology in southwestern ponderosa pine forests: A literature review)
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Block, William M.; Boucher, Paul F., 1996. Effects of fire on birds in Madrean forests and woodlands
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Balda, Russell P., 1994. Habitat selection by Mexican Spotted Owls in Northern Arizona
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Balda, Russell P.; King, Rudy M., 1993. Metabolic rate and evaporative water loss of Mexican Spotted and Great Horned Owls
    Ganey, Joseph L.; Balda, Russell P., 1989. Distribution and habitat use of Mexican Spotted Owls in Arizona
    A photograph of downed trees with mullein in the foreground, green coniferous trees behind the mullein, and mountains with snow in the background.
    Model development combining multiple data sources to leverage data source strengths and for improved parameter precision has increased, but with limited discussion on precision gain versus effort. Some data sources take more effort than others, thus knowing how much improvement is gained with these monitoring metrics is important for allocating samples on the landscape. Our framework allows research and monitoring programs to evaluate optimal use of limited funds when multiple data sources are available within the study design phase to meet study objectives.
    High-severity wildfires are increasing and researchers are issuing different findings regarding wildfire impacts on spotted owls (Strix occidentalis), a threatened species that nests in mature, western forests with large trees and high canopy cover. Data from different studies show mixed responses of spotted owls to fire, but suggest that the effects of high-severity wildfires could be significant throughout the range of all three subspecies. The debate over owls, wildfire, and managed forest restoration needs further evaluation.
    The Mexican spotted owl is listed as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act and is vulnerable to habitat loss from wildfire and climate change. RMRS scientists are leading a cutting-edge modeling effort to predict the interactive effects of forest restoration, wildfire, and climate change on the distribution, population size, and population connectivity of Mexican spotted owl across the Southwestern United States.  
    High severity burned patch from the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.
    This research evaluates the use of citizen science in a region with increased stress from ongoing drought and wildfires. Researchers show how it allows for inexpensive and statistically rigorous monitoring, and fosters greater local involvement in science and conservation. This information will be used to determine optimal protocols for a long-term monitoring plan. Inexpensive and statistically rigorous long-term monitoring fosters local involvement in science and conservation.
    A clump of snags in ponderosa pine forest, northern Arizona.
    Since 1997, RMRS scientists have monitored populations of snags (standing dead trees) and downed logs in northern Arizona mixed-conifer and ponderosa pine forests, as well as patterns of climate-mediated tree mortality influencing inputs to snag and log populations.
    RMRS scientists recently completed a 10 year study of a population of threatened Mexican spotted owls (Strix occidentalis lucida) in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico. This study evaluated demography, habitat use, and diet composition of spotted owls, as well as forest structure characteristic of owl habitat. We determined that most owl nests are located in wet mixed-conifer forests not greatly in need of ecological restoration.
    Land managers require high-quality information on species and habitats at risk to develop effective management strategies. In the absence of information on these species and their habitats, agencies frequently err on the side of the species and make conservative, and often unnecessary, decisions relative to habitat protection. Over 20 years of research by scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station are helping address these information needs.
    Snags (standing dead trees) and logs are important components of forest landscapes. RMRS scientists established a series of fixed plots in 1997 for monitoring snag populations. This research has direct ramifications for 11 national forests throughout the Southwestern Region, as well as for our overall understanding of the ecology of coarse woody debris and effects of climate change on forest structure and composition.
    Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) scientists have been at the forefront of efforts to understand the ecology of the threatened Mexican spotted owls (Strix occidentalis lucida) for more than 25 years. These scientists and their cooperators have produced most of the existing scientific information on this species. Today, RMRS scientists continue to be actively involved in developing new knowledge on this owl, synthesizing existing information, and working with managers to integrate habitat requirements for the owl and its important prey species into land management plans.
    Innovative quantitative approaches have been developed for evaluating wildfire and prescribed fire effects on wildlife communities in several western North American national forests.
    The avifauna within the Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona includes species found nowhere else in the United States. Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists initiated a study in the 1990s on avian distribution and habitat associations within the Sky Islands. This project involves monitoring vegetation and bird populations following wildfires, applying climate change models to assess potential changes and explore strategies for managing resilient forests and avian populations, and engaging citizens in data collection and long-term avian monitoring.