This is a personal website for James (Jed) D. Murdoch and the information, text, images, videos, content, opinions, and representations do not necessarily reflect those of the UVM Wildlife and Fisheries Biology Program, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, The Nature Conservancy, or other organizations or entities mentioned on the site. All text, images, and videos are copyrighted. Use of text, images and other elements of this site requires permission from the author/photographer/producer. Videos may be used for free for educational purposes (any form of commercial use not allowed) and there is no guarantee on their content. If you have questions, please contact James Murdoch by email at jmurdoch@uvm.edu.

  • James D. Murdoch

    Associate Professor | Wildlife Biology

    University of Vermont

  • Welcome and thanks for visiting!

    James (Jed) D. Murdoch | University of Vermont


    Position & Background

    I am a wildlife biologist and Associate Professor of the Wildlife & Fisheries Biology program in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont (USA). I am currently serving as Director of the program. My position involves conducting research on the natural world, teaching and mentoring students, and service to the community and profession.


    I am originally from Vermont and joined the University of Vermont in 2009. I earned a BA (Biology) from Colorado College, MS (Biological Sciences) from University of Denver, and DPhil (Zoology - Wildlife Conservation Research Unit) from University of Oxford.



    Aims & Interests

    My research interests focus on the behavior and ecology of mammalian carnivores with an emphasis on their conservation. Much of my experience has focused on the Canidae, including foxes, wild dogs, and wolves, and explored aspects of their sociality, demography, food habits, ranging behavior, and activity patterns. I am also interested in understanding how human activities affect carnivores. For example, how do activities such as landscape development, climate change, and hunting/poaching affect carnivore populations? I use a combination of field studies, experimentation, and modeling to address these questions in a variety of areas including here in Vermont, but also Africa and Asia.



    Wildlife biology & conservation

    I teach undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Vermont. Courses include those focusing on conservation biology, wildlife behavior, ecology, and management. I also teach methods courses in estimating species abundance and distribution. Course numbers include: WFB 150, WFB 224, WFB 275, WFB 283, WFB 387, and NR 103.


    Supporting conservation

    I serve on the Board of Trustees of The Nature Conservancy - Vermont. TNC has been active in Vermont for over 50 years and is an effective, science-based organization with an outstanding record of conservation success. I am also a member of the Vermont Scientific Advisory Group for Mammals, which provides scientific advice to the State of Vermont.

  • News

    Recent updates

    UVM Kroepsch-Maurice Award (5/17/17)

    I am absolutely delighted (and humbled) to have won the University of Vermont's Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award. The award is truly an honor. For details, please see the university's Center for Teaching and Learning.

    ASM travel award (4/10/17)

    Congratulations to Cody Aylward, who is a graduate student in our wildlife group, for receiving a Travel Award from the American Society of Mammalogists to attend their annual conference held this year in Idaho. Cody will be presenting his work on American marten genetics and distribution in the northeastern United States.

    Managing argali as an ecosystem service (3/6/17)

    We just had a paper accepted that describes how landscape characteristics influence the distribution of argali sheep, the world's largest mountain sheep and an important cultural ecosystem service provider in Mongolia. The article was just published: Murdoch, J., R. Reading, S. Amgalanbaatar, G. Wingard, and B. Lkhagvasuren. 2017. Ecological interactions shape the distribution of a cultural ecosystem service: argali sheep (Ovis ammon) in the Gobi-Steppe of Mongolia. Biological Conservation 209:315-322.

    Teaching climate change & sustainability (2/14/17)

    Kim Coleman of the Vermont Higher Education Council spearheaded an assessment of service-learning pedagogy to improve student learning around climate change and sustainability. Her work synthesized data from four courses colleagues and I taught and has some nice results. The work was supported by the Northern New England Campus Compact (NNECC) and U.S. EPA. Coleman, K., J. Murdoch, S. Rayback, A. Seidl, and K. Wallin. In press. Students' understanding of sustainability and climate change across linked service-learning courses. Journal of Geoscience Education.

    Wolves, pastoralists, and livestock (1/18/17)

    Colleague Stefan Ekernas just published a great paper in Conservation Biology that brought together lots of work on wolves, argali, and people at our field site (Ikh Nart Nature Reserve) in Mongolia. The paper is in 'Early View' -- check it out: Ekernas, L. S., W. M. Sarmento, H. S. Davie, R. P. Reading, J. Murdoch, G. J. Wingard, S. Amgalanbaatar, and J. Berger. 2016. Indirect effects of desert pastoralists help and hurt rare wildlife. Conservation Biology.

  • Research projects

    A snapshot of current projects

    Effects of landscape

    change on



    Maximizing protected area

    conservation for wildlife


    American marten

    genetics and distribution

    Vermont, USA



    for wildlife under

    scenarios of

    climate change

    Vermont, USA

    Moose ecology

    Vermont, USA

  • Publications

    A selection of recent articles | Google Scholar profile

    Ovis ammon, (c) R. Reading

    Argali and ecosystem services


    Murdoch, J., R. Reading, S. Amgalanbaatar, G. Wingard, and B. Lkhagvasuren. 2017. Ecological interactions shape the distribution of a cultural ecosystem service: argali sheep (Ovis ammon) in the Gobi-Steppe of Mongolia. Biological Conservation 209:315-322

    Lynx rufus, (c) A. Krahl

    Wildlife & landscape development

    Vermont, usa

    Espenshade, J., J. Murdoch, T. Donovan, R. Manning, C. Bettigole, and J. Austin. In review. Public acceptability of development in the Northern Forest of Vermont, USA – the influence of wildlife information, recreation involvement, and demographic characteristics. PLOS ONE.

    Crocuta crocuta, (c) J. Murdoch

    Wildebeest, zebra, oribi density


    M’soka, J., S. Creel, M. Becker, and J. Murdoch. In press. Ecological and anthropogenic effects on the density of migratory and resident ungulates in a human-inhabited protected area. African Journal of Ecology.

    Herder ger camp, (c) J. Murdoch

    Argali, wolves, and pastoralists


    Ekernas, L. S., W. M. Sarmento, H. S. Davie, R. P. Reading, J. Murdoch, G. J. Wingard, S. Amgalanbaatar, and J. Berger. In press. Indirect effects of desert pastoralists help and hurt rare wildlife. Conservation Biology.

    Ikh Nart, (c) J. Murdoch

    Developing a model reserve


    Reading, R., J. Murdoch, S. Amgalanbaatar, H. Davie, M. Jorgensen, D. Kenny, T. Munkhzul, G. Onloragcha, L. Rhodes, J. Schneider, T. Selenge, E. Stotz, S. Buyandelger, E. Tuguldur, and G. Wingard. 2016. From "paper park" to model protected area: transformation of Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Mongolia. IUCN Parks 22.2:25-38.

    Vulpes corsac, (c) X. Eichaker

    Corsac foxes and habitat loss


    Lkhagvasuren, M., J. Murdoch, T. Munkhzul, and A. Strong. 2016. Predicting the effects of habitat loss on corsac fox occupancy in Mongolia. Journal of Mammalogy 97:1153-1163.

    Mesechinus dauuricus, (c) R. Reading

    Hedgehog radio-telemetry


    Reading, R., D. Kenny, J. Murdoch, and S. Batdorj. 2016. Use of dental restorative temporization material for attaching radiotransmitters to hedgehogs. Wildlife Society Bulletin 40:355-358.

    Vulpes vulpes, (c) R. Reading

    Red fox distribution


    Murdoch, J., H. Davie, M. Galbadrah, and R. P. Reading. 2016. Factors influencing red fox occupancy probability in central Mongolia. Mammalian Biology 81:82-88.

    Vulpes vulpes, (c) J. Murdoch

    Red fox phylogeny


    Statham, M., J. Murdoch, J. Janecka, K. Aubry, C. Edwards, C. Soulsbury, O. Berry, Z. Wang, D. Harrison, M. Pearch, L. Tomsett, J. Chupasko, and B. Sacks. 2014. Range-wide multilocus phylogeography of the red fox reveals ancient continental divergence, minimal genomic exchange and distinct demographic histories. Molecular Ecology 23:4813-4830.

  • Graduate students

    Current students and their projects

    Cody Aylward

    Cody Aylward

    M.S. program

    Cody's project focuses on American marten in Vermont. His graduate work is supported by the Northeastern States Research Cooperative, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, and a USDA McIntire-Stennis research grant. Co-advisor: Dr. Bill Kilpatrick, UVM Biology.

    Skye Pearman-Gillman

    Skye Pearman-Gillman

    Ph.D. program

    Skye's project focuses on wildlife responses to climate change in the northeastern US. Her graduate work is supported by a USDA McIntire-Stennis research grant. Co-advisor: Dr. Terri Donovan, USGS VCFWRU.

    Elias Rosenblatt

    Elias Rosenblatt

    Ph.D. program

    Eli's project involves developing an ecosystem 'scorecard' for wildlife to improve decision-making. His graduate work is supported by the Steven Rubenstein Ph.D. Fellowship and a USDA McIntire-Stennis research grant. Co-advisor: Dr. Terri Donovan, USGS VCFWRU.

  • Collaborators

    Research partners

    Martes pennanti, (c) J. Murdoch

    Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department


    A main partner for research in Vermont and northeastern US is the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department of the Agency of Natural Resources.

    Mongolia landscape, (c) D. Jackson

    Mongolian Academy of Sciences


    A main partner for research in Asia is the Mongolian Academy of Sciences Institute of General and Experimental Biology, Mammalian Ecology Laboratory.

    South Luangwa landscape, (c) J. Murdoch


    Carnivore Programme


    A main partner for research in Africa is the Zambian Carnivore Programme that works country-wide on carnivore conservation issues.

  • Instructional videos

    Instructional videos on common subjects in wildlife biology & conservation

    Conservation Biology & Modeling

    Conservation Biology

    an online course

    This course covers major topics in conservation biology and develops models of each topic using simple and straightforward spreadsheets. The course 18 modules, each with a series of with lectures and spreadsheet videos. It was developed with Dr. Terri Donovan of the Vermont Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit and U.S. Bureau of Land Management National Training Center. Topics include:

    • What is Conservation Biology?
    • Measuring diversity
    • Basic population growth
    • Demographic stochasticity
    • Population viability analysis
    • Logistic growth and harvest models
    • Metapopulation dynamics
    • Source-sink dynamics
    • Ecological traps and edge effects
    • Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium
    • Evolution and natural selection
    • Genetic drift
    • Gene flow and corridors
    • Inbreeding and outbreeding
    • Effective population size
    • Island biogeography
    • Reserve design
    • Ecosystem services

    All videos are available on VCFWRU website. Click on the image to the right to link to the videos and companion spreadsheets.

    Single-season occupancy model

    Occupancy modeling 1

    building a single season occupancy model

    Occupancy modeling has become a common approach to describing a species' distribution. However, the actual modeling approach is often a source of confusion, so in this video, I provide a comprehensive overview of how an occupancy model is built. I use a simple spreadsheet and some real data and my aim here is provide a clear, easy-to-follow guide to understanding occupancy modeling. Topics covered include:

    • Model building
    • Maximum likelihood analysis
    • Model selection & Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC)
    • Interpreting Betas (or parameter estimates)
    • Modeling polynomials and interactions
    • Assessing model fit
    • Using models to make predictions

    Coming soon . . .

    Multi-season occupancy model

    Occupancy modeling 2

    building a multiple season occupancy model

    This video introduces the multi-season occupancy model. This model is built from data in two time periods, such as seasons or years. It's similar to the single season model, but incorporates two new parameters. These parameters describe the probability of a species going extinct or colonizing a given site in a landscape, which allow researchers to explore how these processes (extinction and colonization) are affected by aspects of a landscape. Again, I use a spreadsheet to clearly walk you though how this model is built.


    Coming soon . . .

    Distance sampling

    Distance sampling

    estimating population density

    Distance sampling is a common technique used to estimate a species density in a landscape. The advantage of this technique is that it estimates density by accounting for a researchers ability to detect a species. Distance sampling modeling can be challenging to understand. In this video, I provide an overview of the distance sampling modeling approach and how it is used to estimate density.


    Coming soon . . .

  • Contact

    +1 (802) 656-2912 | jmurdoch@uvm.edu