Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Forestry and Natural Resources

Committee Chair

Patrick A. Zollner

Committee Member 1

Elizabeth A. Flaherty

Committee Member 2

Jonathan H. Gilbert

Committee Member 3

Robert K. Swihart


The American marten (Martes Americana) is an endangered forest carnivore native to the Upper Midwestern United States and culturally significant to local Ojibwe tribes. In this region, the marten faces a number of potential threats to its persistence, including competition, predation, lack of prey availability, lack of recruitment, and lack of population connectivity. To evaluate how marten behavior affects the conservation and management of this species, I developed an individual-based model to simulate marten dispersal and home range establishment. In Chapter 2, I describe the model and the process of calibrating it to perform comparably to real-world martens. I also demonstrate support for a theoretical hypothesis of animal dispersal, that a dispersing individual should be willing to settle in lower quality habitat over time. In Chapter 3, I apply this model to a nearby landscape in the region to determine how land use change, mortality, and asymmetrical landscape configuration affect the ability of martens to disperse and maintain connectivity between populations. Mortality of dispersing individuals had the greatest effect on connectivity, while landscape configuration had the greatest effect on dispersal metrics. In Chapter 4, I used a dynamic landscape simulation model combined with a model of land transformation to extend my IBM to investigate how 100 years of land use and climate change might affect marten populations. In Chapter 5, I demonstrate how behavioral barriers to mating among reintroduced martens from different source populations may be driving declines in genetic diversity in the region. Ultimately, this work shows how tools such as IBMs and population genetics can be used to address real-world conservation problems when experimental field methods are limited by factors such as time, cost, and scarcity. At the same time, these applications can be used to ask important questions of theoretical ecology, ultimately serving both pragmatic and paradigmatic purposes.