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Contact Information:

photo of Matthew Johnson
Johnson, Matthew
Wildlife Biologist
(Not yet specified.)
Research Station:
Work Address:
Colorado Plateau Research Station, Northern Arizona University, Box 5614, Flagstaff, AZ 86011
Telephone Number:
Email Address:

Biographical Sketch:

Matthew earned his undergraduate degree in 1983 at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado studying education and Biology, he earned his Master's degree in 1997 at Northern Arizona University studying avian ecology. Matthew has 12 years of experience studying avian populations and behavior. His Master's research investigated the effects of Brown-headed Cowbird brood parasitism on a Black-throated Sparrow population in the Verde Valley, Arizona. His primary research interests include avian ecology, population studies, and inventory and monitoring of birds. He has conducted numerous research projects throughout the western United States, Mexico, and Central America, as well as in Africa. A considerable proportion of this work has involved conducting surveys of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Mexican Spotted Owls and observing their behavior. In addition, he is co-author of the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo Natural History Summary and Survey Methodology. Much of his work has been with federal land management agencies, principally the National Park Service. He has contributed to large-scale inventory and population monitoring studies, including the program at Canyonlands National Park and Montezuma Castle National Monument, the Southern Colorado Plateau Network of the Park Service, the Northern Colorado Plateau Network of the Park Service, and the USGS Grand Canyon Research and Monitoring Center. Since 1992, Matthew has been with what is today the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center, Colorado Plateau Field Station on the Northern Arizona University campus in Flagstaff. His recent work has concentrated on studies of bird populations particularly Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Mexican Spotted Owl on the Colorado Plateau and in the adjacent southwestern U.S.

Project List

  • Determine Protected Area Centers for Mexican Spotted Owls at Mesa Verde National Park. Studies in the early 1990's indicate that a small breeding population exists in Mesa Verde's deep sandstone canyons where dense Douglas-fir stands and pinyon-juniper woodlands provide shady cover and foraging habitat. No investigations of the owls have occurred beyond 1996 and no Protected Area Centers (PACs) have been established for these birds in Mesa Verde listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the right conditions, Mesa Verde's forests are highly vulnerable to devastating wildfires. Since 1934, Mesa Verde has experienced several large wildfires. Over half of the park has burned between 1989 and 2002, with thousands of acres of Spotted Owl habitat impacted. Preparation for a new Fire Management Plan has begun with ideas for more aggressive treatment of fuels using more prescribed burning and mechanical thinning to create fuel breaks in the park's forests. These activities have the further potential to directly impact the park's small population of these protected birds. In 2004 and 2005 we will locate and map all historical Mexican Spotted Owl observations and nesting records using GIS, map all potential MSO breeding habitat within Mesa Verde NP, conduct current MSO surveys in Mesa Verde and document and map all breeding and non-breeding activity during two breeding seasons. Determine appropriate PACs based on the best available data using guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the MSO's recovery plan, and recommend a long-term Mexican Spotted Owl monitoring strategy for Mesa Verde NP.
  • Mexican Spotted Owl Surveys at the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station and Dry Lake PAC, 2004. In Arizona, the Mexican Spotted Owl is distributed widely in association with forest and steep canyon habitat. The owl was listed as a "threatened species" on April 15, 1993 (See, 58 Fed. Reg. 14248) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and was placed on the Arizona Game and Fish Department's IIPAM list of sensitive species needing further study. The owl is declining in core sections of its range in Arizona, and the decline may be associated with habitat loss and fragmentation. Surveys for Mexican Spotted Owls at the U.S. Naval Observatory and the Dry Lake Crater began in 1994 when State Land Department personnel first discovered a Mexican Spotted Owl immediately adjacent to the southern Naval Observatory property. Since 1994, surveys have been conducted by the Arizona State Land Department, U.S. Forest Service and United States Geological Survey/Southwest Biological Science Center/Colorado Plateau Field Station. In 2003 and 2004, we will conduct presence/absence protocol surveys for the Mexican Spotted Owl at the U.S. Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station (Observatory) and throughout the Dry Lake PAC, and evaluate habitat quality for Mexican Spotted Owls at the U.S. Naval Observatory.
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo distribution and abundance, habitat requirements, and breeding ecology in the Salt River valley and Verde Valley watershed. This project is documenting the distribution, abundance, and habitat use of Yellow-billed Cuckoos within the riparian areas of concern: the Roosevelt Lake area (including Tonto Creek) and the Lower San Pedro area (including the Mammoth/Oracle site, the mouth of the San Pedro/Aravaipa Creek inflow, and the Cook's lake site). Additionally, the information gathered during the Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys can be used as baseline data for continued monitoring of Cuckoo populations and riparian vegetation. This project is conducting comprehensive, repeatable surveys within all potentially suitable habitat types in the areas of concern. This work will contribute to baseline information on Yellow-billed Cuckoo populations within these areas. We are also determining breeding habitat selection and preference within the areas of concern. We will characterize the habitat of occupied areas, and identify habitat requirements on the breeding grounds using both field surveys and GIS analysis.
  • Survey and inventory of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mexican Spotted Owl and Black Swift throughout Monticello, UT BLM District. This project is looking at the lack of information regarding the current status and distribution of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mexican Spotted Owl and Black Swift populations in southern Utah, and the potential for human-related impacts. Surveys in 2004 are designed to: map existing habitat for each species; document the number of each species in the study area during the breeding season, and determine if each species are territorial and/or breeding or migrants moving through the area; if breeding birds are found, determine breeding habitat and territory characteristics, nesting status and nest placement characteristics; and, develop recommendations for future monitoring and management alternatives.
  • Avian inventory of National Parks in Northern and Southern Colorado Plateau. I am principle investigator overseeing avian inventory of 11 National Parks throughout the northern and southern Colorado Plateau network. Responsibilities include; overseeing and initiation of study design to implement systematic surveys determining the inventory of all land bird species (including raptors and owls) and to ultimately implement a long term monitoring program.
  • Linking breeding and wintering distributions of Southwestern Willow flycatchers with stable Isotopes. I am currently collecting feathers from Southwestern Willow Flycatchers on their breeding grounds that may contain information about where they winter and feathers collected from hatch-year Willow Flycatchers on the winter grounds (prior to molt) may carry a breeding ground signature. Consequently, hydrogen isotope analyses (and possibly carbon and nitrogen as well will make it possible to map breeding season distributions with wintering distributions. We will then couple these patterns with our samples from migrating birds to construct a more detailed picture of annual population's dynamics of Southwestern Willow Flycatchers than has been possible to date.

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