Mark Ryan


Curator's Professor Emeritus

School of Natural Resources


  • Ph.D., 1982, Iowa State University


  • Endangered species, avian ecology, conservation biology, population ecology, grassland and wetland ecosystem management.

Research Summary

  • Ryan’s research is focused on the population dynamics and habitat relations of non-game and endangered bird species in grassland and wetland ecosystems. Since 1983, Ryan and his students have been investigating factors limiting endangered Piping Plover populations in North America. They have developed a series of demographic simulation models predicting extinction times (Ryan et al. 1993), evaluating management efficacy (Larson et al. 2002), and identifying optimal recovery strategies for Piping Plovers (Larson et al. 2003). Most recently (McCowan et al. 2009, 2011) evaluated the effects of ‘incidental take’ on Plover population dynamics and persistence. Their work has contributed to the purchase, by the Natural Conservancy, of a reserve protecting the largest breeding population of plovers in the United States; to establishing population recovery goals; and to the development of management strategies to enhance reproduction.
  • Another aspect of Ryan’s program relates to conservation of grassland birds. Ryan has been investigating the federal Conservation Reserve Program to assess its value for the conservation of prairie birds (e.g., Farrand and Ryan 2005) and examining the population performance (source-sink status) of several species in CRP fields. This work yielded information useful in federal policy decisions regarding continuing farm set-aside programs and grassland restoration efforts. Other studies evaluated the effect of grazing on grassland passerine reproductive success at National Wildlife Refuges in North Dakota; and (with Dr. Millspaugh) examined post-fledging habitat use, movements, and survival of grassland birds.
  • A final aspect of Ryan’s program relates to application of active learning strategies to university education in wildlife conservation (e.g., Ryan and Campa 2000, 2005).

Selected Publications

  • McGowan, C. P., M. R. Ryan, M. C. Runge, J. J. Millspaugh, J. Cochrane. 2011.
    The role of demographic compensation theory in incidental take assessments for endangered species. Biological Conservation 144:730-737.
  • McGowan, C. P., and M. R. Ryan. 2010.
    Arguments for using population models as quantitative tools in incidental take assessments for endangered species. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 1:183-188.
  • Kerns, C. K., M. R. Ryan, R. K. Murphy, F. R. Thompson, and C. S. Rubin. 2010.
    Factors affecting songbird nest survival in northern mixed-grass prairie. J. Wildlife Manage. 74:257-264.
  • Ryan, M. R., and H. Campa, III. 2005.
    Teaching wildlife research and management techniques. Pages 1-23 in C. Braun, editor. Techniques for wildlife investigations and management. Sixth Edition, The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
  • Suedkamp Wells, K., M. R. Ryan, H. Campa, III, and K. A. Smith. 2005.
    Mentoring guidelines for wildlife professionals. Wildlife Society Bulletin 33:565-573.