People

A lab is only as vibrant as the people who work there, and I have been fortunate to have some great people join me in research.  Here is a bit about them (with some special guest stars for good measure).

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Team Timmy draws in scholars from all the best places.

Current Graduate Students

We’re doing a lot of sharing and co-advising of grad students and collaborative post-doc work among various labs in our department these days. Currently and exclusively in my lab, I’m delighted to be working with Brittany Simons on master’s research to develop a cost surface GIS for migratory landbirds across the conterminous United States. Brittany is from Mannford, OK and she was one of our outstanding undergrad students in NREM here at OSU. Brittany worked with me on undergraduate research, studying nest tree preference for urban Great-tailed Grackles.

Graduate Student Alumni: follow them, cite their papers, collaborate with them!

  • Caitlin Laughlin, Logan, UT (May 2018): Avian responses to fire frequency the Oklahoma cross timbers. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Caitlin has put down some roots here in Stillwater and is currently an Academic Advisor in the Dept. of Integrative Biology. laughlin@okstate.edu @LaughlinCaitlin Caitlin Laughlin at ResearchGate
  • Samantha Cady, Ventura, CA (May 2018): Ecological assessment of Ozark watersheds using breeding birds: a blueprint for riparian restoration. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Sam began a PhD here at NREM in 2018, working with Craig Davis and Sam Fuhlendorf on modeling distributions and populations of Northern Bobwhite. smcady@okstate.edu @Sam_Cady1 Samantha Cady at ResearchGate
  • Fidelis Atuo, Abuja, Nigeria (May 2017): Spatial distribution of aerial predators: influences on usable space for quail. PhD dissertation, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Fidel moved on to a post-doc at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he worked  on spatial distribution of Northern Spotted Owl. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Biology at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. fatuo@semo.edu, @Fidelatuo Fidelis Atuo at ResearchGate
  • Nicolas Jaffe, Miami, FL (May 2017): Predictive mapping of priority birds in the Oaks and Prairies. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Nick is now working on a PhD at Michigan State University where he is studying Gray Wolves. jaffenic@msu.edu
  • Jonathan Harris, Latham, NY (Apr. 2015): Estimating mesopredator predation risk for Northern Bobwhite. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Jonathan (Dr. Harris!) recently completed a PhD on Gray Vireo in the Dept of Integrative Biology here at OSU, and he is currently conducting post-doctoral research there. hjonatp@ostatemail.okstate.edu  @JonP_Harris Jonathan Harris at ResearchGate
  • Emily Sinnott, St. Louis, MO (Nov. 2014): Riparian influence on eastern songbirds in semi-arid transitional forest. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Emily (Dr. Sinnott!) recently completed a PhD at the University of Missouri where she studied movements and survivorship of juvenile Northern Bobwhite. easinnott@gmail.com
  • Leah Dale, Tucson, AZ (Jul. 2014): Supplemental feeding of Northern Bobwhites: potential for aflatoxicosis. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Leah is a wildlife ecologist with the USGS National Wetlands Research Center­­‑Biological Objectives for Gulf Coast Restoration. ldale@usgs.gov  Leah Dale at ResearchGate
  • Adrian Monroe, Alexandria, VA (Aug. 2010): Winter bird habitat use at multiple scales in heterogeneous tallgrass prairie. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Adrian went on for a PhD at Mississippi State University and is currently a Research Scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at Colorado State University. apmonr@gmail.com @apmonr Adrian Monroe at ResearchGate
  • Jason Heinen, The Woodlands, TX (Dec. 2009): Songbird community structure in cross timbers forest: influence of juniper invasion and urbanization. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Jason has continued his craft of extraordinary wildlife photography, especially with birds and Odonates. He is currently living in Minnesota where he raises goats and chickens and has fashioned himself as an itinerant biology teacher, rather like a way cooler, modern Ichabod Crane. jasonheinen21@gmail.com Jason Heinen at ResearchGate
  • Paul van Els, The Netherlands (July 2009): Effects of Juniperus virginiana encroachment on plant and avian diversity in Oklahoma cross timbers forests. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Technically Paul was a student of Rod Will’s, but I like to claim him because we had so many great adventures during his time in Stillwater! Paul studied phylogeography of birds after he left OSU, culminating in a successful dissertation defense in 2018 from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Dr. van Els is currently working as a consultant and senior bird count coordinator for Sovon Vogelonderzoek, the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology in The Netherlands. paul.vanels@sovon.nl Paul van Els at ResearchGate
  • Andrew George, Plano, TX (July 2009): Avian response to Old World bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum) monocultures in mixed-grass prairie. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Andy left OSU to pursue a PhD at the University of Missouri where he established himself as an authority on the fine scale distribution of rat snakes through landscapes. Andy is now an Assistant Professor in Biology at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. adgeorge@pittstate.edu
  • Vince Cavalieri, Iron Mountain, MI (December 2008): Status and habitat affinity for Cerulean Warbler and other forest birds in Oklahoma. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. As a Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Vince coordinated the Great Lakes Piping Plover Program in the Michigan Ecological Services Field Office of the USFWS. In March 2020, he took on a new position with the National Park Service as a Wildlife Biologist at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. vincent_cavalieri@nps.gov         @Antbedparrot.
  • Cosmas Lungu, Kitwe, Zambia (May 2007): Using GIS to model post-CRP land use in Texas County, Oklahoma. PhD dissertation, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Upon completing his PhD here at OSU, Cosmas returned to Zambia to resume his position as a Senior Lecturer at Copperbelt University. Now retired (congratulations!) he can still be reached at lungucos@yahoo.co.uk.
  • Scott McConnell, Philadelphia, PA (May 2006): Habitat associations, ranges, and population estimates of selected bird species in Cimarron County, Oklahoma. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Following his important work on Mountain Plovers, Long-billed Curlews, and other birds of the Oklahoma Panhandle, Scott paid the bills with some consulting work before eventually returning to his passion: the definitive biography of Witmer Stone. stone@gmail.com       witmerstone.com
  • Martin Piorkowski, Mifflinburg, PA (May 2006) Breeding bird habitat use and turbine collisions of birds and bats located at a wind farm in Oklahoma mixed-grass prairie. MS thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Following posts with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Arizona Department of Game and Fish, Martin is now working as a Biologist for WEST Environmental and Statistical Consultants. mpiorkowski@west-inc.com  Martin Piorkowski at ResearchGate
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Whatever it is, it’s over there! Jon and Fidel in Estes Park, CO, 2014.

Collaborators on Campus

Of course we collaborate with folks all over, but here on campus we maintain really close ties with Dr. Scott Loss and his lab. If joining the O’Connell Lab makes you part of a family, the Loss Lab is your extended family.

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Here’s OSU showing out at the annual meeting of the US-International Association for Landscape Ecology in Fort Collins, CO, April 2019.

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Undergraduates in the O’Connell Lab

In addition to graduate students, I provide opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct independent research in my lab – and we hire students every year to work as research technicians for grad students. Several students have been successful in obtaining funding through the Wentz Research Scholars program at OSU, others have simply done their own independent research for credit in NREM 4980: Undergraduate Research. My objective with each student is to provide support and advice, but for these projects to really be the responsibility of the student.  I strongly encourage undergrads in my lab to present summaries of their work to scientific symposia such as the Annual Technical Meeting of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society or even to international conferences such as the annual meeting of the Wilson Ornithological Society.  We try to engage in projects of sufficient rigor that we set a goal of peer-reviewed publication.

  • Sophia Foster – Sophie is a future Veterinarian, but for her Freshman Research Scholars project in 2021, she is working with me on an investigation to the effect of reservoir construction on local climate.
  • Alexis Skurnack – Alexis worked with Sam Cady in 2021 to study the western distribution limit of Red-bellied Woodpecker in Oklahoma.
  • Samantha Lutz. Samantha completed an undergraduate honors thesis with me in the very weird spring of 2020: Nutritive value and selection of seed type by wild birds. Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.
  • Riley Lawson – Riley developed and independent study project to examine community ecology of birds on private and public lands in eastern Oklahoma, 2019.
  • Maddie Stevens. Maddie was barely on campus for a month before working with me to get some kind of undergraduate research up and running. In 2018 she was awarded support from the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to develop a project with me to examine the use of wool in birds’ nests, with emphasis on bison wool in Oklahoma. In 2019, she was awarded a McNair Scholarship to study shifting baselines of bird communities between ancestral and Oklahoma tribal lands for select Native American tribes. Maddie begins a PhD at the University of Minnesota in 2021!
  • Katya Rasmussen. Katya is gearing up in 2018 to conduct an independent study of Loggerhead Shrike distribution in Oklahoma and Texas. I was last doing shrike work way back in 1994 and I’m not sure which of us is more excited to get this project going. Okay it’s me, but Katya is pretty pumped about this, too.
  • Kasey Goins. Kasey was such as asset to our 2017 field sampling on the Ozark Watersheds project that I begged her to come back for 2018 and survey birds for us on the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture project. I also (unsuccessfully) tried to lure her back for a master’s degree, but Kasey’s sights are set on more distant shores. She is currently working for the USFWS in Tulsa.
  • Alex James. Alex Jack-of-all-trades James is an outstanding birder who also knows his plants, insects, and fungi. We were thrilled to have him in 2016 and 2017 working on the Ozark Watersheds project.
  • Cierra Keith. With the graduation and departure of Nick Jaffe in 2017, responsibility for the entire Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture field sampling in 2017 fell to Cierra and Alex Ramsey, and they did a great job!
  • Alex Ramsey. With the graduation and departure of Nick Jaffe in 2017, responsibility for the entire Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture field sampling in 2017 fell to Alex and Cierra Keith, and they did a great job! Alex has been traveling widely across North America and building his resume as an ace field technician.
  • Julia Clark. In 2016, Julia (from the department of Entomology and Plant Pathology) was funded on a CASNR undergraduate research scholarship to work on an analysis of insects sampled from Caitlin Laughlin’s project at the Okmulgee Wildlife Management Area.
  • Brittany Simons. In 2016, Brittany was funded as a Wentz Research Scholar to study the use of Bradford Pear by nesting Great-tailed Grackles. Brittany presented her research to the Oklahoma Ornithological Society and the North American Ornithological Conference. After teaching in Mannford Public Schools since graduation, I’m delighted to have lured her back for master’s research in 2018!
  • Kelsey Hildebrand. For her undergraduate Honor’s Thesis in 2016, Kelsey worked with me to develop a new bird community index for application to data from the Breeding Bird Survey of Taiwan. Kelsey is now a field biologist for the National Earth Observatory Network (NEON) in Alabama.
  • Nathan Hillis. Nathan joined the lab in 2012 to assist on multiple projects and do some of his own research.  He began with a survey for grassland birds at the Otoe Plains, and went on to conduct additional survey work in local habitats.  His specific project was to examine nest success in Western Kingbirds. Nathan pursued a master’s degree at the University of Central Oklahoma, became a blacksmith, still takes fantastic photos, and works as a wildlife consultant for Olsson Associates.
  • Caitlin Brown. Caitlin served as the field technician for Emily Sinnott’s research during summer 2013 and 2014. She conducted point counts for breeding birds as well as invertebrate and vegetation sampling. She went on to teach science in the Stillwater School District, but has since returned to campus as the OSU Arborist.
  • Zoë [Cooper] Bolack. Zoë served as the field technician for Emily Sinnott’s research during spring 2013, and contributed to the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture project in 2014 and 2015. She conducted point counts for breeding birds as well as invertebrate and vegetation sampling. Zoë went on to earn a master’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Forestry at the University of Georgia, and is currently a Biologist for POWER Engineers in Fort Worth, TX.
  • Kelly McCann. Kelly worked on an undergrad Honor’s Thesis in our lab, using data she collected while an intern at a National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. She focused on species richness and distribution of amphibians. She’s currently a Program Coordinator for the Memorial Park Conservancy in Houston, TX.
  • Dawson McNeil. Dawson won a prestigious Wentz Research Scholarship in 2013, studying the use of brushpiles by Harris’s Sparrow during the winter of 2013–2014. Dawson currently works as an environmental specialist on stormwater quality for the Oklahoma City Department of Public Works.
  • Christopher Brown. Chris studied habitat selection in wintering Red-tailed Hawks for his Wentz Research Project. He was specifically interested in the Harlan’s Hawk, a subspecies that winters in Oklahoma but breeds in Alaska. Chris completed his veterinary training at OSU in 2017, and in 2018 relocated to Washington State where he is in his veterinary residency. Congratulations, Dr. Brown!
  • Ariel Richter. For her Wentz Research in 2011, Ariel studied movements and road mortality of turtles in two Oklahoma landscapes. Ariel pursued a master’s degree at the University of Central Oklahoma and is currently a curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
  • Kinsey Winters. Kinsey studied enrichment effects on the behavior of captive eagles at the Grey Snow Eagle House in Perkins, OK. She is now a keeper at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
  • Sariah Tolsma. Sariah examined the influence of nutritional supplementation in the diets of captive Bald Eagles at the Grey Snow Eagle House in Perkins, OK.  She specifically was interested in bare part coloration. Sariah is currently working for The Nature Conservancy.
  • Abbey Ramirez. Abbey studied nesting habitat use and food availability for Mississippi Kites in 2012; she also studied nesting Western Kingbirds on campus at OSU and habitat loss for Military Macaws using remote sensing data from southern Mexico. Abbey studied wintering Northern Saw-whet Owls in the Ozarks for her master’s degree at Northeastern Oklahoma State University. In 2021, she began PhD research at the University of Virginia!
  • Alyssia Culbertson. For an undergraduate research project, Alyssia prepared a nice analysis of land cover change in a GIS with an eye toward habitat loss relative to migrant Black-throated Blue Warblers. She went on to be an ace field technician on various projects in the western US.
  • Monika Burchette. Monika worked on a few different projects in the Lab, but I am most grateful for the time she put in to prepare museum specimens of window-killed birds collected on campus. Monika is currently working as a wetlands biologist for Olsson Associates.
  • Andrea [King] Storer. For her undergraduate research project, Andrea studied the habitat use of Great-tailed Grackles in urban environments here in Stillwater. Andrea went on to work for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation at the Beaver River Wildlife Management Area.
  • Marla Steele. Marla worked with me on an independent research project to study timing of migration for hawks at a hawkwatch station in Japan. Marla presented that research at international conferences (notably in Mongolia in 2010) and is continuing to work with me toward publication. In 2016, Dr. Steele earned her PhD at the University of Arkansas. She is currently a Research Fellow in the Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.
  • Mai Onoue, Fukuoka, Japan. Mai worked with me on a Wentz Research Scholarship to study the spatial distribution and habitat use of wintering House Sparrows on the OSU campus. Mai is currently working as a conservation biologist at the Japan Wildlife Research Center in Tokyo.
  • Cassondra Walker. Cassondra began working as an ace field assistant for us while an undergraduate student. She also worked on an independent research project to examine changes in wintering populations of birds in response to land cover change using Christmas Bird Count data. Cassondra (Dr. Walker!) completed a PhD in the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU and is now a Wildlife Biologist at the San Bernadino Wildife Refuge in Arizona.
  • Loma Pendergraft. Loma was bird-keen all on his own, but I steered him toward  Phenology of a pre-migratory roost of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers for his Honors’ Thesis in 2011. From there, he progressed to a master’s and now a PhD at the University of Washington where he has become an expert on the intelligence of crows. You can follow his work here!
  • James Davies. James went on to a career in medicine, but as an OSU undergrad, he worked on an Honor’s Thesis project that involved mapping out territories of Northern Mockingbirds on the OSU campus.
  • Will Jessie. While an undergrad at OSU, Will worked in the Lab as a field technician and provided valuable service in helping maintain bird banding records. He moved on to graduate work in the department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Dr. Jessie is now on the Extension faculty at Oregon State University in Corvallis –– where his partner Dr. Casi [Morgan] Jessie is working on a post-doc in the department of Crop and Soil Science.

Director

Tim O’Connell, Utica, NY
I grew up in beautiful central New York State, and earned my B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell. From there, I headed south to Williamsburg, VA, and earned a Master’s degree in Biology from William and Mary. I stayed in Virginia for a few more years, working for the state in the Department of Conservation and Recreation. From there, I headed to Pennsylvania and started working toward a Ph.D. in Ecology at Penn State. After obtaining my degree at Penn State, I stuck around for a few more years as a Research Associate with the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center and part-time Instructor in the School of Forest Resources.

In 2003, I took a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Zoology (now Integrative Biology) at OSU. In 2006, I joined colleagues from Zoology and the departments of Forestry and Plant and Soil Sciences to form the new Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management (NREM). In 2009, I was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in NREM.

I’ve been interested in wildlife (especially birds) for as long as I can remember. If there is one pervasive theme to my research, teaching, and personal life, it probably lies in my desire to share my enthusiasm for nature with others, and the hope that new-found empathy will spur greater awareness of, and dedication to, wildlife conservation.

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The original “Team Timmy’s Titmouse Tabulators”. From left, Cosmas Lungu, Martin Piorkowski, Scott McConnell, and Vince Cavalieri: