US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Deahn Donner

Project Leader / Landscape Ecologist
5985 Highway K
United States

Phone: 715-362-1146
Contact Deahn Donner

Current Research

The primary goal of the scientist’s research program is to develop an understanding of large-scale spatial and temporal relationships required to manage and restore habitat to conserve wildlife populations. Her research program spans three major themes including spatial ecology and conservation of populations, bioenergy and biodiversity, and landscape restoration of pine barrens and northern dry forests. Given the rate of habitat transformation occurring worldwide, increasing land use pressures, and multiple use direction of the agency, strategic planning for wildlife conservation programs across broader geographic regions will become the standard rather than the exception as increasing numbers of populations become smaller and more isolated. The vulnerability of these remaining populations is compounded by changing environmental conditions. Each species is exposed to and sensitive to these factors differentially, so broad conclusions are not always transferrable across species, or across a species range. Traditional small-scale studies cannot provide the large-scale information needed to determine patterns of adaptive ability to changing conditions, nor how to ensure populations remain functionally connected (i.e., successful breeding) across complex, spatially heterogeneous landscapes. The scientist applies metapopulation, biogeography, movement ecology, landscape ecology, and landscape genetic theoretical frameworks to problems. In addition, the use of forest-based bioenergy is an important component of our national energy strategy. Scaling up these alternative sources of energy from local to regional or national programs remains challenging as well as determining the impacts of biomass to wildlife populations. Last, fire suppression combined with succession has drastically reduced historically open barren and savannah systems, particularly pine barrens and northern dry forest ecosystems in the Lake States region. These systems provide important habitat to many native pollinators that are facing declines.

Specific research projects focus on (1) bat movement ecology and the secondary effects of White-Nose Syndrome, (2) using forest management to mitigate effects of climate change on moose in Minnesota, (3) spatial ecology and Kirtland’s Warbler population recovery and conservation, (3) (4) wood turtle movement patterns using landscape genetic approaches, (5) using eDNA to monitor and model habitat occupancy for rare species such as the Lake Sturgeon, (6) assessing forest biodiversity sustainability in northeast United States under various biofuel harvesting scenarios of the 2016 Billion Ton Report, and (7) using fire and silvicultural treatments to optimize barrens and northern dry forest restoration.

Research Interests

Conservation and restoration of open lands and early succession habitats and the species that rely on these systems; applying metapopulation, island biogeography, and fragmentation theory to answer critical questions associated with impacts of large-scale land use and cover changes from forest management and human development; using a landscape genetics approach to investigate influence of landscape pattern on population processes

Why This Research is Important

Our Nation’s forests and grasslands are natural assets that provide goods and services vital to human health and livelihood. The rate and magnitude of ecological changes brought on by human activity, changing climates, and natural disturbances are increasing rapidly and creating novel conditions within which forest managers must operate to sustain the ecosystem services their lands provide. Landscapes are being modified by shifting land uses, unprecedented environmental conditions, altered fire regimes, pollution, and large-scale insect and disease outbreaks. Understanding the cumulative effects of these processes requires a landscape perspective that integrates time, space and scale. Scale is recognized as a critical concept in ecology.  Ecological problems often exist over decades and large ecosystems, but important variables that drive spatial patterns and processes are often measured in small areas or over short periods of time. Moreover, the most pressing land management issues of our day (e.g., timber harvesting, environmental quality, road building, forest fragmentation, and loss of biological diversity) have a spatial component and cannot be resolved by considering them at a single scale. Sustaining our forests and grasslands to be resilient and adaptive in a changing world and improving forest conditions  are both desired outcomes of forest management that will also provide necessary wildlife habitat.


  • University of Wisconsin - Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies - Madison, WI, Ph.D. Environmental Studies 2007
  • University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, M.S. Wildlife Ecology 1997
  • University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, B.S. Wildlife Ecology 1988

Professional Experience

  • Research Landscape Ecologist and Project Leader, Northern Research Station
    2009 - Current
  • Wildlife Biologist, Northern Research Station
    1997 - 2009

Professional Organizations

  • The Wildlife Society, Member (2006 - Current)
  • International Association for Landscape Ecology - North America, Member (2005 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • Inspiring Woman Award - Northern Research Station, 2016
    In recognition of outreach and partnerships formed with minorities and research
  • Wings Across the Americas Conservation Award, 2016
    In recognition of research-management partnerships on the multi-scale landscape ecology approach for studying the secondary effects of White-nose Syndrome in bats of the upper Midwest.
  • NRS Early Career Scientist Award, 2011
    For pioneering the application of spatial ecology to bio-energy and endangered species research

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


A Warbler Recovers from Near Extinction, but Will its Habitat Survive?

More than three decades of work on restoration of its nesting habitat has resulted in the recovery of Kirtland’s warbler, a bird that flew clo ...


Bats and Conservation Education Programs

Bats provide an important ecosystem services: They are voracious eaters of insects and can eat their body weight in insects every night. Unfortu ...


Effect of Woody Biomass Removal on Forest Biodiversity and Nutrient Cycling

Findings represent short-term effects and give a baseline for long-term study


How Large-scale Forest Conditions Influence Northern Goshawk Nesting

Efforts to better understand nesting habitat requirements of the northern goshawk, a forest-sensitive species in northern Wisconsin, were enhanc ...


How do bats use landscapes around hibernaculum?

The answer to that question may be key to their survival. Understanding how bats use the landscape during all stages of their life cycle is cruc ...


Landscape-scale Effects of Beaver Removal on a Managed Forest

Beavers and their dams have been removed from Class I and II trout streams within Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest since the late 1980s to re ...


Scientists Discover Earlier Shift in Peak Salamander Numbers at Woodland Ponds

Forest Service scientists analyzed salamander monitoring data taken at breeding woodland ponds in the early 1990s to mid-2000s and found that th ...


Scientists study the potential implications of expanding woody biomass harvesting to forest biodiversity?

Demand for wood biomass to help meet the nation’s renewable energy needs raises questions about the implications of removing small-diameter wh ...


Spatial Analysis Differentiates New York Coyotes Between Two Colonizing Fronts

Coyotes are widely distributed, highly mobile predators that exhibit regional differences in habitat affinities, prey specialization, social agg ...


Wood Turtle Habitat Use in Western Edge of Distribution

Efforts to better understand habitat use patterns of the wood turtle at the western edge of their range is important for range-wide conservation ...


Last updated on : 12/10/2021