James Beerens, Ph.D.
B.S., Zoology with concentration in Animal Behavior, Michigan State University, 2003
M.S., Integrative Biology, Florida Atlantic University, 2008
Ph.D., Integrative Biology, Florida Atlantic University, 2014
James Beerens' research program provides quantitative and spatial decision support tools to aid in the conservation of wildlife communities and ecosystems at the human- and invasive-impacted interface. Short- and long-term management, restoration, and land use decisions require an understanding of species-habitat relationships so that actions promote resiliency to human caused ecological change; now decoupled from the pace of adaptations that happen through natural selection. For these reasons, Beerens' studies species-habitat relationships and physical drivers of habitat change to inform natural resource management and facilitate resilient responses to rapid change. In his program, the use of species distribution models provides spatial approaches to practical conservation to detect species sensitivity to habitat change. He uses competing hypotheses, guided by behavioral ecology, to drive selection of abiotic and biotic environmental drivers of animal ecology and the latest statistical methods to obtain inference. He previously worked for the South Florida Water Management District where he studied wetland community responses to nutrient enrichment as well as developed ecological models of indicator species (e.g., wading birds) to inform water management. He also worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute developing habitat suitability models to guide management of Florida’s imperiled species. A suite of his wading bird models (WADEM) have been applied to forecast potential wildlife responses to Everglades restoration and climate change.
Science and Products
The Sparrow Helper tool allows for the evaluation of water management scenarios by generating, plotting, and mapping hydrologic metrics across a range of time scales to predict impacts of proposed water depth changes to sparrow subpopulations.
WADEM (Wader Distribution Evaluation Modeling) is a JEM model that estimates species-specific habitat suitability across the landscape for Great Egret (Ardea alba), White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), and Wood Stork (Mycteria americana).
Predicting wading bird and aquatic faunal responses to ecosystem restoration scenarios
In large-scale conservation decisions, scenario planning identifies key uncertainties of ecosystem function linked to ecological drivers affected by management, incorporates ecological feedbacks, and scales up to answer questions robust to alternative futures. Wetland restoration planning requires an understanding of how proposed changes in...Beerens, James M.; Trexler, Joel C.; Catano, Christopher P.
Using Cape Sable seaside sparrow distribution data for water management decision support
The Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis; hereafter sparrow) is endemic to south Florida and a key indicator species of marl prairie, the most diverse freshwater community in the Florida Everglades. Marl prairie habitat is shaped by intermediate levels of disturbances such as flooding, drying, and fire, which maintain...Beerens, James M.; Romañach, Stephanie
Evaluating water management scenarios to support habitat management for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow
The endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis) is endemic to south Florida and a key indicator species of marl prairie, a highly diverse freshwater community in the Florida Everglades. Maintenance and creation of suitable habitat is seen as the most important pathway to the persistence of the six existing sparrow...Beerens, James M.; Romañach, Stephanie S.; McKelvy, Mark
Determining habitat quality for species that demonstrate dynamic habitat selection
Determining habitat quality for wildlife populations requires relating a species' habitat to its survival and reproduction. Within a season, species occurrence and density can be disconnected from measures of habitat quality when resources are highly seasonal, unpredictable over time, and patchy. Here we establish an explicit link among dynamic...Beerens, James M.; Frederick, Peter C; Noonburg, Erik G; Gawlik, Dale E.
Linking dynamic habitat selection with wading bird foraging distributions across resource gradients
Species distribution models (SDM) link species occurrence with a suite of environmental predictors and provide an estimate of habitat quality when the variable set captures the biological requirements of the species. SDMs are inherently more complex when they include components of a species' ecology such as conspecific attraction and behavioral...Beerens, James M.; Noonberg, Erik G.; Gawlik, Dale E.
Using scenario planning to evaluate the impacts of climate change on wildlife populations and communities in the Florida Everglades
It is uncertain how climate change will impact hydrologic drivers of wildlife population dynamics in freshwater wetlands of the Florida Everglades, or how to accommodate this uncertainty in restoration decisions. Using projections of climate scenarios for the year 2060, we evaluated how several possible futures could affect wildlife populations (...Catano, Christopher P.; Romañach, Stephanie S.; Beerens, James M.; Pearlstine, Leonard G.; Brandt, Laura A.; Hart, Kristen M.; Mazzotti, Frank J.; Trexler, Joel C.
Physiological condition of juvenile wading birds in relation to multiple landscape stressors in the Florida Everglades: effects of hydrology, prey availability, and mercury bioaccumulation
The physiological condition of juvenile birds can be influenced by multiple ecological stressors, and few studies have concurrently considered the effects of environmental contaminants in combination with ecological attributes that can influence foraging conditions and prey availability. Using three temporally distinct indices of physiological...Herring, Garth; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Gawlik, Dale E.; Beerens, James M.; Ackerman, Joshua T.
Landscape factors and hydrology influence mercury concentrations in wading birds breeding in the Florida Everglades, USA
The hydrology of wetland ecosystems is a key driver of both mercury (Hg) methylation and waterbird foraging ecology, and hence may play a fundamental role in waterbird exposure and risk to Hg contamination. However, few studies have investigated hydrological factors that influence waterbird Hg exposure. We examined how several landscape-level...Herring, Garth; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Gawlik, Dale E.; Beerens, James M.
Dynamic habitat selection by two wading bird species with divergent foraging strategies in a seasonally fluctuating wetland
Seasonal and annual variation in food availability during the breeding season plays an influential role in the population dynamics of many avian species. In highly dynamic ecosystems like wetlands, finding and exploiting food resources requires a flexible behavioral response that may produce different population trends that vary with a species'...Beerens, James M.; Gawlik, Dale E.; Herring, Garth; Cook, Mark I.
Wading bird numbers in the Florida Everglades are driven by water patterns that play out over multiple years according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and Florida Atlantic University.