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College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
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Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology

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Robert Blair

FWCB-faculty-blairimgProfessor, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
Phone: 612-624-2198
Email: blairrb@umn.edu
Ph.D. Stanford University

Fields of Interest

Ecology of human-dominated landscapes, birds as indicators of ecological integrity, conservation of native species, environmental education.

Courses

FW 8452 Conservation Biology
CBIO 8004 Economic and Social Aspects of Conservation Biology
ESPM 5480 Topics in Natural Resources - Schoolyards, Science and Sustainability
Schoolyard Ecology Explorations - Professional Development for Teachers
Minnesota Master Naturalist - Natural History for Enthusiastic Minnesotans

Research

My research interests in conservation biology focus on how land use affects bird communities. While many conservation 
biologists choose to concentrate on pristine habitat islands and endangered species, I prefer to focus on the "unswimmable ocean" of 
the human-dominated landscape. My recent research has centered on the changes that occur to native birds as sites become 
progressively more developed. Currently, my students are working on how the supposedly hard-to-reintroduce wild turkey is thriving in urban areas, how hornbills are using the working landscape of a proposed wildlife corridor in Thailand, and why some commercial buildings are more prone to bird-building collisions than others.

My outreach efforts in science and environmental education center on three programs with three different audiences: Minnesota Master Naturalist, Schoolyard Ecology Explorations, and Driven to Discover.

Minnesota Master Naturalist is a volunteer program that teaches adults about Minnesota's natural resources, empowers them to educate others, and provides opportunities to do conservation projects. The mission of the program is to promote awareness, understanding, and stewardship of Minnesota's natural environment by developing a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within their communities. More information on the program can be found at www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.

Schoolyard Ecology Explorations is a professional development workshop for teachers. Its goal is to increase student and teacher expertise in ecological research, natural history and sustainability. Through summer workshops, teachers learn to utilize their schoolyards as sites for student investigations into the natural world. Schoolyard Garden Grants provide funds for teachers to plant new or expand schoolyard gardens. More information on the program can be found at http://www.monarchlab.umn.edu/see/.

Driven to Discover is a project that seeks to expand the reach of Citizen Science for middle-school youth. Typically, citizen science involves the general public in collecting data that can be analyzed and interpreted by professional scientists. This project carries citizen science a step further, enabling youth to design, carry out, and even report on their own research questions under the mentorship of youth group leaders (e.g 4-H, Girl Scouts, Nature Clubs) supported by the D2D team at the University. More information on the program can be found at ww1.extension.umn.edu/environment/fwce/conservation-education/citizen-science/ (Link expected to go live in January 2014) 

Recent Publications

Homayoun., T. and R.B. Blair. In Review. Value of park reserves to migrating landbirds in an urban Important Bird Area. Urban Ecosystems.

Loss, S., G.J. Niemi, and R.B. Blair. 2012. Invasions of non-native earthworms related to population declines of ground-nesting songbirds across a regional extent in northern hardwood forests of North America. Landscape Ecology. 27(5):683-696.

Pennington D.N. and R.B. Blair. 2012. Using gradient analysis to uncover pattern and process in urban bird communities. In Urban Bird Ecology and Conservation. C.A. Lepczyk and P.S. Warren eds. Studies in Avian Biology. 9 -31.

Riem, J.G, R.B. Blair, D.N. Pennington, and N.G. Solomon. 2012. Estimating mammalian species diversity across an urban gradient. American Midland Naturalist. 68(2):315-332.

Loss, S. and R.B. Blair. 2011. Reduced density and nest survival of ground-nesting songbirds in relation to earthworm invasions in northern hardwood forests. Conservation Biology. 25(5):983-992.