Mike Hardy

Graduate Student

Research Interests and Background

MHardy_new_picI grew up in a family of biologists, and I’ve had a keen interest in wild places for as long as I can remember. In my early twenties I developed my passion into a career working on various applied conservation problems on the north coast of California, where I ultimately earned my BS and MS degrees in wildlife biology from Humboldt State University studying a federally-listed population of Western Snowy Plovers. Since then, I have studied small mammal and bird communities in oak woodlands of coastal-central California, monitored breeding shorebirds in an agricultural landscape in the northern Sacramento Valley, and most recently, collaborated with numerous stakeholders to update and improve a comprehensive long-term database of Spotted Owl observations throughout California. First and foremost, I consider myself a conservation biologist and my primary research interests include population dynamics, wildlife-habitat relationships, landscape ecology, and conservation genetics. I am especially interested in pursuing research questions that help inform management and enable effective conservation of vulnerable populations, particularly in working landscapes.

Prairie Grouse Research

Sharp-tailed Grouse and Greater Prairie-Chickens have a long history of cultural and economic significance in the Great Lakes region. However, both species have exhibited significant population declines in Wisconsin over the past century, raising concerns about the long-term viability of the state’s prairie grouse. In Wisconsin, Greater Prairie-Chickens are listed as Threatened and are currently restricted to a few breeding sites in the central part of the state. Sharp-tailed Grouse are both a harvested species and a state species of Special Concern, and occur chiefly in northwestern Wisconsin. Both species are open-habitat specialists that inhabit highly fragmented landscapes where patch connectivity and gene flow are thought to be limited. Despite a long history of previous research beginning with early work conducted by Leopold and the Hamerstroms, the effects of land management practices and variable climatic conditions on the population dynamics of Wisconsin’s prairie grouse remain largely unknown.

For my PhD research, I am collaborating with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to investigate the effects of landscape composition, habitat management, and projected climate change on the distribution, metapopulation dynamics, and long-term population viability of both species. I intend to integrate demographic, occupancy, and genetic data to conduct rigorous population viability analyses that will facilitate more effective management of prairie grouse and the working landscapes that support them. Ultimately, I hope that my work will help secure a future for these iconic species in the face of unprecedented changes in land use and climate.


M.S. Natural Resources (option in Wildlife), Humboldt State University, 2010. Thesis: Western Snowy Plover nest survival on ocean-fronting beaches in coastal northern California.

B.S. Wildlife (option in Conservation Biology/Applied Vertebrate Ecology), Humboldt State University, 2008. Honors Thesis: The impact of predator exclosures on Snowy Plover nesting success: A 7-year study.




Selected Publications

Hardy, M.A., J.M. Zingo, and W.D. Tietje. 2013. Effects of repeated captures on body mass and survival of dusky-footed woodrats in a California oak woodland. Southwestern Naturalist 58:305-313.

Hardy, M.A., J.K. Vreeland, and W.D. Tietje. 2013. Vegetation associations of birds wintering in a California oak woodland. Journal of Field Ornithology 84:345-354.

Hardy, M.A. and M.A. Colwell. 2012. Factors influencing Snowy Plover nest survival on ocean-fronting beaches in coastal northern California. Waterbirds 35:503-511.

Colwell, M.A., J.J. Meyer, M.A. Hardy, S.E. McAllister, A. Transou, R.R. LeValley, and S.J.
Dinsmore. 2011. Western Snowy Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus select nesting substrates that enhance egg crypsis and improve nest survival. Ibis 153:303-311.

Colwell, M.A., N.S. Burrell, M.A. Hardy, K. Kayano, J.J. Muir, W.J. Pearson, S.A. Peterson, and K.A. Sesser. 2010. Arrival times, laying dates, and reproductive success of Snowy Plovers in two habitats in coastal northern California. Journal of Field Ornithology 81:349-360.

Hardy, M.A. and M.A. Colwell. 2008. The impact of predator exclosures on Snowy Plover nesting success: A 7-year study. Wader Study Group Bulletin 115:161-166.