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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Christopher Sutherland

Second Advisor

Xavier Lambin

Third Advisor

Toni Lyn Morelli

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Komoroske

Subject Categories

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Connectivity has quickly become a central tenet of ecological research, frequently evoked for conservation research and management activities. However, the concept of connectivity has proliferated into many forms for many different perspectives. Generally said, population distributions, demography, landscape, and dispersal all contribute to connectivity in a meaningful way. While great progress has been made in increasing realism in connectivity, one component seemed to stand out as being underappreciated: the role of population dynamics in the application of landscape connectivity. I began to acquire an appreciation for how common modeling approaches make assumptions about these core components of connectivity. In Chapter 1 I argue connectivity is a dynamic property of landscapes, influenced by population distributions, distribution of habitat, and dispersal behavior and present the conceptual demographically-weighted connectivity framework. Through computer simulations, I investigated the consequences of common assumptions to understand under which conditions each assumption was valid. In order to determine whether these theoretical simulation-based results applied in practice, I evaluated these assumptions empirically using a model system, the naturally fragmented mammalian metapopulation system in Assynt, Scotland, UK. In Chapter 2, I explore demographically-weighted connectivity and the implications of the common assumption that connectivity is a static component of the landscape. In chapter 3, I demonstrate that the characteristics of the inter-patch landscape, though which dispersal must occur for spatially structured populations to persist, matters when characterizing connectivity. The ability to uncover connectivity’s influence is only as good as our ability to detect our study species, and thus my final data chapter of the dissertation is a verification of emerging technological advances to measuring biodiversity and occupancy in the landscape using environmental DNA and camera trapping techniques. This dissertation helps provide evidence to the demographic nature of connectivity and how our modeling assumptions may impact the efficacy of conservation plans and management actions. This dissertation provide support for advances in both measuring and understanding occupancy and connectivity, both important to consider in a time of shifting conservation needs.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License