Susan Willson

Associate Professor Biology Department
Susan Willson

I am a tropical avian ecologist and conservation biologist. I received my BA from Skidmore College, and my Ph.D from University of Missouri-Columbia. Before coming to SLU, I taught with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) in Costa Rica, and also led a semester program in Tanzania for Earlham College while teaching there. I teach General Ecology, Ornithology, Tropical Ecology, Mist Nets and Museum Skins, ODST Ecology and Natural History of the Adirondacks for the Adirondack Semester Program, and Environmental Security. I have done most of my professional research in Amazonian Peru on the population, community and behavioral ecology of a specialized group of birds called obligate army ant followers (families Thamnophilidae and Dendrocolaptidae). This work has led me to study the army ants as well, and I am fascinated by how multiple colonies move over the landscape and interact in space and time. I am also interested in ecology and conservation of birds here in the North Country; some of my local projects include the role of Amish hayfields in the nesting success of local grassland birds, American Kestrel breeding ecology and the role of landscape variability at nest sites, and the use of the Birdsbesafe cat collar to decrease domestic cat predation on songbirds.  I welcome students who would like to join my lab and have interests in local or tropical birds, or army ants. I am affiliated with African Studies, and welcome students interested in combining interests from multiple departments.




Jensen, M. B.*, S. K. Willson, and A. N. Powell.  2022.  How effective is the Birdsbesafe® cat collar at reducing bird mortality by domestic cats?  Journal of Fisheries and Wildlife Management 13(1):182-191.

Willson, S. K.   2016.  The Birdsbesafe® cat collar cover: Why cats in New York need it more than Australian cats to decrease songbird mortality. Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies 20:101-107.

Willson, S. K., I. A. Okunlola, and J. A. Novak.  2015.  Birds be safe: Can a novel cat collar reduce avian mortality by domestic cats (Felis catus)?  Global  Ecology and Conservation 3: 359-366.

Willson, S. K., R. P. Sharp, I. Ramler, and A. Sen.  2013. Spatial movement optimization in Amazonian Eciton burchellii army ants (translated into Spanish). In Reporte Manu 2012.  San Diego Zoo Global Publ., CA. 

Willson, S. K., R. P. Sharp, I. Ramler, and A. Sen.  2011. Spatial movement optimization in Amazonian Eciton burchellii army ants. Insectes Sociaux, International Journal for the Study of Social Arthropods 58(3): 325-334.

Willson, S. K. 2004.Obligate army-ant-following birds: A study of ecology, spatial movement patterns, and behavior in Amazonian Peru. The American Ornithologists’ Union: Ornithological Monographs No. 55.

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