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William M. Block

Post-fire bird surveys

Scientist Emeritus

2500 South Pine Knoll Dr.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001-6381
Contact William M. Block

Current Research

Habitat ecology of neotropical migratory birds (NTMBs) in the Madrean Archipelago. Effects of prescribed fire on breeding and wintering birds in the American Southwest. Wildfire effects on bird and small mammal communities. Effects of fire risk abatement and restoration treatments on bird and small mammal populations.

Research Interests

Habitat ecology; population ecology; conservation biology; fire effects on birds and small mammals; effects of restoration on wildlife; effects of fuels reduction on wildlife; conservation planning

Past Research

Managing for wildlife requires a basic understanding of their ecology, hence much of my works focuses on habitat and resource use at hierarchies of space and time. Further, managers have various options for treatments they place on the ground. Understanding responses of key species and wildlife communities to these treatments will provide managers with critical information for making informed decisions.

Why This Research is Important

I've worked on various taxa including amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals. Much of this work has focused on habitat associations, resource use, and population response to natural or human perturbation. Understanding factors that influence population status provides the basis for developing options that managers can use to ensure population persistance at appropriate spatial scales.


  • University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., Wildland Resource Science, 1989
  • Humboldt State University, M.S., Wildlife Biology and Management, 1985
  • Michigan State University, B.S., Fish and Wildlife Biology, 1981
  • San Diego State University, B.A., Economics, 1974
  • Awards

    Caesar Kleberg Award, The Wildlife Society, 2014
    Award recognizes career achievements in applied wildlife research
    Publication Award, 2011, RMRS, Technology Transfer, 2011
    For the book Wildlife Study Design
    Wings Across the Americas, 2007
    Research and Management Partnership Award for the Birds and Burns Network: Fire Effects on Populations and Habitats of Sensitive Species of Wildlife in Ponderosa Pine Forests of the Interior West.
    Certificate of Merit, WO, 2002
    "For exceptional effort helping to prepare a new concept to meet NFMA diversity requirements for the Planning Rule." Award from Deputy Chief, NFS, Tom Thompson.
    Certificate of Merit, USDA Forest Service, Southwestern Region, 2000
    Participation in the analysis of the Southwestern Region' s Forest Plan direction in regards to implementation of the Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plan and Northern Goshawk Management Recommendations. Award from Regional Forester Eleanor Towns
    Conservation Service Award, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1999
    In recognition of services performed to meet the Department' s conservation goals. Award from Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to the Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Team.
    Albright Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 1985
    In recognition of academic achievement

    Featured Publications


    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
    Latif, Quresh; Sanderlin, Jamie S.; Saab, Victoria A.; Block, William M.; Dudley, Jonathan G., 2016. Avian relationships with wildfire at two dry forest locations with different historical fire regimes
    Block, William M.; Conner, L. Mike; Brewer, Paul A.; Ford, Paulette L.; Haufler, Jonathan; Litt, Andrea; Masters, Ronald E.; Mitchell, Laura R.; Park, Jane, 2016. Effects of prescribed fire on wildlife and wildlife habitat in selected ecosystems of North America
    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
    Sanderlin, Jamie S.; Block, William M.; Strohmeyer, Brenda E., 2016. Long-term post-wildfire correlates with avian community dynamics in ponderosa pine forests [Chapter J]
    Schwartz, Michael K.; Sanderlin, Jamie S.; Block, William M., 2015. Manage habitat, monitor species [Chapter 10]
    Sanderlin, Jamie S.; Block, William M.; Ganey, Joseph L., 2014. Optimizing study design for multi-species avian monitoring programmes
    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
    Block, William M., 2013. It's all in the numbers, right?
    Block, William M., 2013. Plan well, plan often
    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
    Block, William M., 2012. Analysis paralysis
    Block, William M., 2012. Another year, another volume
    Block, William M., 2012. Are we ready to move forward?
    Block, William M., 2012. Editor's message: Student involvement
    Block, William M., 2012. I'm back
    Block, William M., 2012. Journal tweaks and pet peeves
    Block, William M.; Saab, Victoria A.; Ruggiero, Leonard, 2012. Putting science into action on Forest Service Lands [Chapter 5]
    Block, William M.; Thompson, Frank R.; Hanseder, Dawn; Cox, Allison; Knipps, Anna, 2011. Journal of Wildlife Management guidelines
    Krausman, Paul R.; Naugle, David E.; Frisina, Michael R.; Northrup, Rick; Bleich, Vernon C.; Block, William M.; Wallace, Mark C.; Wright, Jeffrey D., 2009. Livestock grazing, wildlife habitat, and rangeland values
    Dickson, Brett G.; Noon, Barry R.; Flather, Curtis H.; Jentsch, Stephanie; Block, William M., 2009. Quantifying the multi-scale response of avifauna to prescribed fire experiments in the southwest United States
    Jentsch, Stephanie; Mannan, R. William; Dickson, Brett G.; Block, William M., 2008. Associations among breeding birds and gambel oak in Southwestern ponderosa pine forests
    Hurteau, Sarah; Dickson, Brett G.; Sisk, Thomas D.; Block, William M., 2008. Chapter 10: Avian community responses to forest thinning and prescribed surface fire, alone and in combination
    Hurteau, Sarah R.; Sisk, Thomas D.; Block, William M.; Dickson, Brett D., 2008. Fuel-reduction treatment effects on avian community structure and diversity
    Saab, Victoria; Block, William M.; Russell, Robin; Lehmkuhl, John; Bate, Lisa; White, Rachel., 2007. Birds and burns of the interior West: descriptions, habitats, and management in western forests.
    Block, William M., 2007. Getting it right [Editorial]
    Block, William M.; Morrison, Michael L., 2007. How to be impactful [Editorial]
    Morrison, Michael L.; Block, William M., 2007. Out with the old [Editorial]
    Binkley, Daniel; Sisk, Tom; Chambers, Carol; Springer, Judy; Block, William M., 2007. The role of old-growth forests in frequent-fire landscapes
    Saab, Victoria; Bate, Lisa; Lehmkuhl, John; Dickson, Brett; Story, Scott; Jentsch, Stephanie; Block, William M., 2006. Changes in downed wood and forest structure after prescribed fire in ponderosa pine forests
    Morrison, Michael L.; Block, William M., 2006. Editorial: By the time you read this ...
    Block, William M.; Morrison, Michael L., 2006. Editorial: Tread lightly or carry a big stick?
    Block, William M.; Morrison, Michael L., 2006. Editorial: Welcome to the new Journal of Wildlife Management
    Covert-Bratland, Kristin A; Block, William M.; Theimer, Tad C., 2006. Hairy woodpecker winter ecology in ponderosa pine forests representing different ages since wildfire
    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
    Saab, Victoria A.; Kotliar, Natasha B.; Block, William M., 2005. Relationships of fire ecology and avian communities in North America
    Bock, Carl E.; Block, William M., 2005. Response of birds to fire in the American southwest
    Converse, Sarah J.; Dickson, Brett G.; White, Gary C.; Block, William M., 2004. Estimating small mammal abundance on fuels treatment units in southwestern ponderosa pine forests
    Block, William M.; Franklin, Alan B.; Ward, James P. Jr.; Ganey, Joseph L.; White, Gary C., 2001. Design and implementation of monitoring studies to evaluate the success of ecological restoration on wildlife
    Wagner, Michael R.; Block, William M.; Geils, Brian W.; Wenger, Karl F, 2000. Restoration ecology: A new forest management paradigm, or another merit badge for foresters?
    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
    Block, William M.; Morrison, Michael L.; Scott, Peter E., 1998. Development and evaluation of habitat models for herpetofauna and small mammals
    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
    Aigner, Paul A.; Block, William M.; Morrison, Michael L., 1998. Effect of firewood harvesting on birds in a California oak-pine woodland
    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
    Hall, Linnea S.; Morrison, Michael L.; Block, William M., 1997. Songbird status and roles
    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
    Block, William M.; Finch, Deborah M.; Brennan, Leonard A., 1995. Single-species versus multiple-species approaches for management
    Finch, Deborah M.; Block, William M.; Fletcher, Reg A.; Fager, Leon F., 1993. Integrating neotropical migratory birds into Forest Service plans for ecosystem management
    Morrison, Michael L.; Block, William M.; Verner, Jared, 1991. Wildlife-Habitat Relationships in California's Oak Woodlands: Where Do We Go From Here?
    Noon, Barry R.; Block, William M., 1990. Analytical considerations for study design
    Morrison, Michael L.; With, Kimberly A.; Timossi, Irene C.; Block, William M.; Milne, Kathleen A., 1987. Foraging behavior of bark-foraging birds in the Sierra Nevada
    Block, William M.; With, Kimberly A.; Morrison, Michael L., 1987. On measuring bird habitat: influence of observer variability and sample size
    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.
    A firefighter lights a prescribed fire with a drip torch.
    Some objectives for prescribed fire include reducing fuel loads and fuel continuity, returning fire to an ecosystem, enhancing wildlife habitats, improving forage, preparing seedbeds, improving watershed conditions, enhancing nutrient cycling, controlling exotic weeds, and enhancing resilience from climate change. Regardless of the particular objective, fire affects ecosystem structure, composition, and function in many ways.
    BBN_emblem.jpg – Birds and Burns Network emblem
    Researchers studied avian relationships with wildfire to evaluate forest fire and fuels management strategies. Specifically, they document regional differences associated with historical fire regime with implications for broadly implemented strategies aimed at reducing severe wildfire risk. The results suggest that avian-fire relationships differ regionally, and therefore the best management practices for conserving or restoring avian diversity likely differ with historical fire regime.
    Photo: LEWIS WOOD BERRIESem.jpg; caption – Lewis’s Woodpecker most frequently nests in relatively open, recently burned forests with large diameter snags.
    Increases in forest fires are expected with future changes in climate, allowing more opportunities for post-fire salvage logging. Forest managers are challenged with implementing post-fire management policies while concurrently meeting the requirements of existing laws and planning documents to maintain habitat for wildlife species associated with snags. Design criteria for post-fire salvage logging is needed to concurrently manage for economic benefits and wildlife habitat.
    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.
    Elk bugleing
    One of the biggest challenges that wildlife and plant populations face is the speed at which climate change is predicted to occur. For some species the rapid rate of change will outpace their ability to migrate to more suitable habitats. What is needed is an understanding of the evolutionary and genetic responses to climate change and accurate identification of which species will be unable to persist given various climatic predictions. Our research will help managers adjust to and reduce the negative impacts of climate change on ecological systems.
    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.
    We are integrating multiple datasets, statistical modeling tools, and simulation approaches to quantify habitat and predict population responses by woodpecker and other wildlife species of conservation concern to natural disturbance (wildfire, bark beetle outbreaks) and forest management activities to inform adaptive management of dry conifer forests.
    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.