Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Lesley Bulluck


Understanding habitat selection at multiple scales is an important step in guiding conservation programs and reversing species declines. This, however, is difficult for species that occupy early-successional habitats (ESH) due to a lack of accurate representation of shrub cover in publicly available land cover data. The Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera; GWWA) is a threatened species of conservation concern and a flagship for ESH conservation. We used a novel, LIDAR-derived land cover classification that accurately identifies shrubs at a fine resolution (1m) to investigate how habitat composition and configuration influence GWWA site occupancy. We aggregated this same land cover data to 30m resolution to compare with models using commonly used spatial data. Our results confirm that elevation, forest and shrub cover are important habitat features for GWWA and suggest specific extents and optimum amounts that these cover types should be maintained: elevation 900-1000m, 10-15% shrub cover at 500m, and 50-60% forest cover at 1km. Models using coarse resolution data identified the same cover types and extents as important for GWWA. Our results can improve communication and implementation of GWWA conservation efforts. Widely available land cover data that includes an accurate representation of shrub cover are needed to extend these results across the Appalachian region. We projected GWWA occupancy probability across a five-county region to plan future surveys and recruitment for ESH management. Our study highlights the importance of understanding habitat selection at multiple scales and integrating freely available spatial data to guide conservation programs.


© Baron Lin

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