Dr. Nicola Koper
Professor, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba

Dr. Nicola Koper is a Professor of Conservation Biology at the NRI. Her broad background is in landscape ecology, applied ornithology, prairie and wetland ecology, multi-species management, and ecological statistics. Her research has involved a variety of vertebrates, including songbirds, ducks, shorebirds, freshwater turtles, and woodland caribou. The common thread that joins these topics is conservation biology. 

Current projects explore conservation and habitat management for songbirds in agroecosystems in Alberta and Grenada. In Alberta, our team is evaluating effects of oil and gas infrastructure and anthropogenic noise on abundance, productivity, survival, behaviour, and physiology of grassland songbirds. Sprague’s pipits, Baird’s sparrows, chestnut-collared longspurs, and Savannah sparrows are some of our focal species. In Grenada, our team is conducting some of the first mist-netting and banding programs ever conducted on the island, to better understand the natural history of its unique bird community. Some of our focal species (and sub-species) include the Grenada house wren (is it or isn’t it a species…?!) and Lesser Antillean tanager, but we are studying all the upland passerines and near-passerines in the forested agroecosystems of this Caribbean country.

Dr. Koper has also been heavily involved in applying her knowledge to contribute to academia, conservation and management. She is an Associate Editor of Condor – Ornithological Applications and Wildlife Society Bulletin, a member of the Board of Directors and also the Scientific Advisory Committee for Nature Conservancy Canada – Manitoba, an invited scientific expert who has contributed to numerous provincial, and Canadian and USA federal conservation strategies and recovery plans, and actively collaborates with federal and academic scientists across Canada, the USA and Grenada to achieve conservation goals.

A unique characteristic of Dr. Koper’s approach is to combine landscape-scale in-situ empirical studies with manipulative field experiments to disentangle effects of confounding factors. For example, we are currently using experimental playbacks of oil well drilling and operating noises to isolate effects of noise from effects of the oil infrastructure and associated activity and roads. This will allow us to develop precise management recommendations that will help mitigate ecological effects of oil and gas activity.

Although her primary interest is in ecology, Dr. Koper frequently develops and evaluates environmental statistics and study designs to support her research. Although statistics are a crucial tool for ecologists, the most common methods are often inadequate and lack power. Dr. Koper regularly evaluates existing statistical methods, develops new statistics, or adapts existing statistics that are used in other scientific fields.