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US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Curt Flather

Curtis H Flather

Research Ecologist
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Phone: 970-498-2569
Fax: 970-498-1212
Contact Curtis H Flather


Current Research

Extend the scientific basis for ecosystem management in a manner that maintains the character (structure and processes) of ecosystems while providing for human benefits derived from ecosystem services. My current research is focused in four broad areas:1. Improve the analysis of wildlife population and community response to spatial and temporal changes in climate, land use, and land cover within multiple-use landscapes.2. Develop and test cartographic-based approaches to biodiversity assessments.3. Extend conservation scientists' ability to design landscapes in a spatially explicit and perhaps optimal way.4. Document trends in wildlife resources for land use policy.

Research Interests

My research is focused generally on understanding wildlife population and community response to changing landscape patterns driven by climate change, land use, natural disturbance, and land management activities. There is growing evidence that the distribution and abundance of species may exhibit critical thresholds in their response to reduced habitat amounts, degradation in habitat quality, and increases in habitat fragmentation. My future work will test for the existence of these thresholds and explore their use in setting important conservation targets for how natural resources are managed.

Past Research

Many factors affect the pattern of biodiversity we observe across broad geographic areas. Some of those factors stem from natural disturbance events, others originate from the manner that humans occupy, manage, and modify the environments that also support a diverse array of species. The results from my research are expected to provide policy- and decision-makers with scientific information and predictions about how wildlife species may respond to natural and human-caused disturbances to landscapes. In particular, my research helps focus land management planning on those geographic areas requiring restoration efforts, and on those species that are vulnerable to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and climate change.

Why This Research is Important

  • National assessment of the wildlife resource situation: I am the Forest Service's Wildlife and Fish Specialist for Resource Assessments. Under this assignment I have had the lead responsibility for completing the agency's national assessments of wildlife resource status and trends in 1990, 2000, and 2010 to support the Agency's resource planning efforts.
  • Geography of species endangerment: The sheer number of species listed as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 raised concerns about the feasibility of addressing the problem of species extinction of a species-by-species basis. I used endangered species hotspots as a way of identifying ecosystems that warrant conservation focus.  
  • Developing indicators of sustainable resource development: There has been a shift in natural resource management that is focusing on long-term sustainability of ecosystems as a measure of responsible resource stewardship. I was involved in an effort to define and quantify a set of indicators that related to biodiversity conservation and sustainable forestry.
  • Application of spatial optimization in species conservation: Given that conservation dollars are limited, we need to make management recommendations that result in the biggest bang for our conservation buck. I have been involved in a number of studies looking at the effects of habitat fragmentation and the optimal placement of habitats to conserve species.
  • Education

    • University of Vermont, BS Wildlife Biology, 1979
    • Colorado State University, MS Wildlife Biology, 1982
    • Colorado State University, Ph.D. Wildlife Biology, 1992

    Professional Experience

    • Research Ecologist, USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
      1987 - Current
    • Research Wildlife Biologist, USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
      1982 - 1987
    • Biological Technician, USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
      1979 - 1982

    Professional Organizations

    • Landscape Ecology, Editorial Board (2004 - 2007)
      Coordinated peer review and made publication recommendations
    • The Americn Naturalist, Editorial Board (2002 - 2005)
      Coordinated peer review and made publication recommendations
    • Environmental Mangement, Editorial Board (1999 - 2004)
      Coordinated peer review and made publication recommendations
    • The Wildlife Society, Editorial Board (1990 - 1993)
      Coordinated peer review and made publication recommendations

    Awards & Recognition

    • Publication Award, 2012
      Selected Flather (1996) as an influential contribution to the understanding of species-area relationships and compiled as one of 24 papers included in a virtual issue of the Journal of Biogeography
    • Pubication Award, 2012
      Influential paper on endangered species. Flather et al. (1998) was picked by the editors of BioScience as one of 18 papers featured in a collection of papers on endangered species published by Univ. Calif. Press.
    • Publication Award, 2011
      Best Scientific Publication, Rocky Mountain Research Station
    • Publication Award, 2000
      For best natural science article. Awarded by The Center for Great Plains Studies for the paper: Sieg, C.H., C.H. Flather, and S. McCanny. Recent biodiversity patterns in the Great Plains: implications for restoration and management. Great Plains Res.
    • Publication award, 1998
      Outstanding paper in the field of landscape ecology awarded to Flather and Sauer (1996)
    • Publication Award, 1998
      Outstanding paper in the field of Landscape Ecology. Awarded for the paper Flather and Sauer (1998) Using landscape ecology to test hypotheses about large-scale abundance patterns in migratory birds.
    • Publication Award, 1998
      Patuxent Scientific Achievment Award. Awarded for the paper by Boulinier et al. (1998). Higher temporal variability of forest breeding bird communities in fragmented landscapes.

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    Last updated on : 01/15/2014