Monica Cooper


Monica Cooper

My research interests are, broadly: conservation genetics, population dynamics, disturbance ecology, and connectivity. I’m interested in how and why populations and communities are distributed across the landscape, how species respond to and interact in increasingly fragmented landscapes and under a changing climate, and how we can ask basic ecological questions to address applied ecological problems. I’m a generalist, and although I’m particularly fond of amphibians and mammals, I don’t discriminate on the basis of taxa. I’m driven by my innate curiosity about how
the world works, and a desire to contribute
to positive change.

For my undergraduate degree, I attended Kalamazoo College in Michigan where I studied biology and art. For my thesis, I investigated soil mycorrhizal fungal abundance under different agricultural practices. After graduating, I explored various types of ecology as a field technician.

For my master’s project in the Pauli lab, I am conducting a non-invasive genetic mark-recapture study on black bears in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the Red Cliff Reservation. I am using genetic tagging and parentage analysis to identify black bears and estimate population vital rates (recruitment, birth, and death rates, temporary immigration and emigration) and connectivity between island and mainland populations of bears. I’m excited to uncover whether these populations are functioning as a metapopulation and possible drivers of subpopulation and metapopulation persistence such as food availability and habitat quality. My project contributes to a body of research that seeks to understand how wide-ranging species function in fragmented landscapes. For the project, we collaborate with the Red Cliff band of Ojibwe, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.