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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Susannah Lerman

Susannah B. Lerman

Research Ecologist
University of Massachusetts
160 Holdsworth Way, Holdsworth Hall
United States

Phone: 413-545-5447
Contact Susannah B. Lerman

Current Research

My research highlights strategies and tools for reconciling urban development with biodiversity conservation. I use a socio-ecological approach to improve fundamental understanding of key ecological processes in human-dominated landscapes, with a focus on birds, pollinators and ground arthropods. Current studies:

  • Test how lawn management frequency can enhance habitat for pollinators and ecosystem services in residential landscapes. Research website and downloadable lawn signs that promote bee-friendly lawn care can be found here.
  • Explore how wildlife responds to alternative yard management regimes to test whether altering green space managment behaviors can maximize benefits for urban biodiversity while delivering ecosystem services. This research is part of the American Residential Macrosystem project.  
  • Develop and integrate habitat relationship models into the urban forest assessment tool i-Tree. The wildlife module provides a rapid assessment of the bird habitat potential in the urban forest, evaluates habitat improvement plans, and provides detailed information of habitat requirements for 10 northeastern birds
  • Assess the population dynamics and stability of backyard birds by studying nest success and annual survival along urban and latitudinal gradients. I partner with citizen scientists to enhance environmental literacy and reconnect people with nearby nature in urban and suburban areas. This research is part of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center's Neighborhood Nestwatch Network.
  • Document long-term trends of urban wildlife communities in suburban neighborhoods and human perceptions of wildlife. Research is part of the Central Arizona Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project.

Research Interests

I translate the application of scientific information into management tools with the ultimate goal of improving the sustainability of urban environments for wildlife and advancing human well-being through reconnecting urbanites with nearby nature. I explore the links between human management of the urban forest (e.g. yards, neighborhood parks and open space) and the health and success of native wildlife populations, and how these impacts subsequently feedback to influence people due to the role of biodiversity in delivering ecosystem services. I seek opportunities to explain scientific findings to varying audiences while trying to facilitate connections between the publics' personal lives and the urban ecosystem.

Past Research

Why This Research is Important

Most people see the urban and suburban landscape as a concrete jungle, devoid of wildlife, but I see potential wildlife habitat that could reverse the loss of biodiversity in urban areas while simultaneously providing positive interactions between people and nature. Given that by 2050 more than 80% of the world population will live in urban and suburban areas, this view becomes an essential tenet in the field of applied ecology, conservation biology and wildlife management. At the heart of my research, I aim to make my work relevant to the end users including environmental practitioners, landscape planners, urban foresters and the public, to more effectively implement change in policy and human behaviors that promote biodiversity.


  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Ph.D. Organismic and Evolutionary Biology 2011
  • Antioch University New England, M.S. Conservation Biology 2005
  • University of Delaware, B.S. American History 1994

Professional Organizations

  • Citizen Science Association (2014 - Current)
  • The Wildlife Society (2011 - Current)
  • Ecological Society of America (2005 - Current)
  • American Ornithological Society (2002 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • Elected Member, American Ornithological Society, 2017
  • National Science Foundation SEES Fellowship, 2012
  • Switzer Environmental Fellowship, 2010

Featured Publications & Products


Citations of non US Forest Service Publications

  • Strohbach, M., S.B. Lerman and P.S. Warren. 2013. Are small urban greening areas enhancing bird diversity? Insights from community-driven greening projects from Boston. Landscape and Urban Planning 114: 69-79.

    Lerman, S.B., P.S. Warren, H. Gan, and E. Shochat. 2012. Linking foraging decisions to residential yard composition. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43497. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043497.

    Lerman, S.B., V.K. Turner, and C. Bang. 2012. Homeowners Associations as a vehicle for promoting urban biodiversity: A case study from Phoenix, AZ. Ecology and Society 17(4): 45.

    Warren, P.S., R. Ryan, S.B Lerman, K. Tooke. 2011. Social and institutional factors associated with land use and forest conservation along two urban gradients in Massachusetts. Landscape and Urban Planning 102: 82-92.

    Lerman, S.B. and P.S. Warren. 2011. The conservation value of residential landscapes: Exploring the links between birds and people. Ecological Applications 21: 1327-1339.

    Shochat, E., S.B. Lerman, J.M Anderies, P.S. Warren, S.H. Faeth, and C.H. Nilon. 2010. Invasion, competition, and biodiversity loss in urban ecosystems. BioScience 60: 199-208.

    Warren, P.S., S. Harlan, C. Boone, S.B. Lerman, E. Shochat, and A.P. Kinzig. 2010. Urban Ecology and Social Organization. Pp. 172-201 in: K. Gaston, editor. Urban Ecology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

    Shochat, E., S.B. Lerman and E. Fernandez-Juricic. 2010. Birds in urban ecosystems: Population dynamics, community structure, biodiversity and conservation. Pp. 75-86 in: J.A. Aitkenhead Peterson and A. Volder, eds. Urban Ecosystem Ecology. Agronomy Monograph 55, Madison, WI.

    Warren, P.S., S.B. Lerman and N.D. Charney. 2008. Plants of a feather: Spatial autocorrelation of gardening practices in suburban neighborhoods. Biological Conservation 141: 3-4.

    Atwood, J.L. and S.B. Lerman. 2007. Vocal variations in coastal Cactus Wrens: should coastal California populations be protected under the U. S. Endangered Species Act? Western Birds 38: 29-46.

    Atwood, J.L. and S.B. Lerman. 2006. Family Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers). Pp. 350-377 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Christie, D.A. eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 11. Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

    Shochat, E., S.B. Lerman, M. Katti, and D. Lewis. 2004. Linking optimal foraging behavior to bird community structure in an urban-desert landscape: field experiments with artificial food patches. American Naturalist 164: 232-243.

Last updated on : 03/01/2021