Kenneth Nussear, PhD

Assistant Professor
Ken Nussear Photo

Contact Information


  • Ph.D., Ecology Evolution and Conservation Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, 2004
  • B.S., Zoology, Colorado State University, 1994


My research explores factors influencing the biology of the plants and animals that may limit their distributions including: the range of acceptable temperatures (and other tolerance related attributes), the thermoregulatory behavior of the species, the locomotory ability of the species at each stage of its existence, shelter requirements, nutritional requirements, etc. This may create limitations when they are constrained within a limited range of existing available habitat. The results of this interaction may be expressed by a reduction of available habitat to habitat that can actually be used by the species. This distinction may be critical when constructing conservation schemes for rare and endangered species. Allocation of habitat may be of no benefit if it is not within the parameters set by the combination of the tolerances of the animal and its interaction with the environment. A basic understanding of each of these may help to better assess useable habitat which can be applied to conservation strategies. I use many GIS based approaches to model species habitat in light of these constraints, and with changes in habitat quality, and changes in climate.

Research Interests

Spatial Ecology, Species Distributions, Distributional limitations, Habitat connectivity, Biophysical Ecology, Conservation Biology, Herpetology


  • Drake, K. K., C. M. Aiello, L. Bowen, R. Lewison, A. K. Miles, K. E. Nussear T. C. Esque, and P. J.Hudson. 2019. Complex immune responses and molecular reactions to pathogens and disease in adesert reptile (Gopherus agassizii). Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.4897
  • Inman, R. D., S. Fotheringham, J. Franklin, T. Esque, T. Edwards, and K. Nussear. 2019. Local niche differences predict genotype associations in sister taxa of desert tortoise. Diversity and Distributions. DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12927
  • Sandmeier, F. C., K. L. Leonard, Tracy, C. R., Drake, K. K., Esque, T. C., Nussear, K. E., and J. Germano. 2019. Tools to understand seasonality in health: quantification of microbe loads andanalyses of compositional ecoimmunological data reveal complex patterns in tortoise populations. Journal of Zoology
  • Aiello, C. M., T. C. Esque, K. E. Nussear, P. G. Emblidge, and P. J. Hudson. 2018. Associating sex-biased and seasonal behavior with contact patterns and transmission risk in Gopherus agassizii. Behaviour.doi:DOI:10.1163/1568539X-00003477
  • Aiello, C. M., T. C. Esque, K. E. Nussear, P. G. Emblidge, and P. J. Hudson. 2018. The slow dynamics of mycoplasma infections in a tortoise host reveal heterogeneity pertinent to pathogen transmissionand monitoring. Epidemiology and Infection. doi: 10.1017/S0950268818002613
  • Inman, R., J. Franklin, T. Esque, and K. Nussear. 2018. Spatial sampling bias in theNeotoma paleoecological archives affects species paleo-distribution models. Quarternary Science Reviews
  • Custer, N. A., L. A. Defalco, K. E. Nussear, and T. C. Esque. 2017. Drawing a line in the sand: Effectiveness of off-highway vehicle management in California's Sonoran Desert. Journal of Environmental Management 193:448-457. doi:
  • Drake, K. K., R. L. Lewison, L. Bowen, T. C. Esque, K. E. Nussear, J. Braun, S. C. Waters, and A. K. Miles. 2017. Coupling gene-based and classic veterinary diagnostics improves interpretationof health and immune function in the Agassiz desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Conservation Physiology 5:1-17. doi:doi:10.1093/conphys/cox037.
  • Nafus, M. G., T. C. Esque, R. C. Averill-Murray, K. E. Nussear, and R. R. Swaisgood. 2017. Habitatdrives dispersal and survival of translocated juvenile desert tortoises. Journal of Applied Ecology 52:430-438. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12774.
  • Simes, M. D., J. Streit, K. M. Longshore, K. E. Nussear, and T. C. Esque. 2017. Common raven (Corvus corax) kleptoparasitism at Golden Eagle (Aquila chyrsaetos) nest in southern Nevada. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 129:195-198.
  • Wiens, J. D., N. H. Schumaker, R. D. Inman, T. C. Esque, K. M. Longshore, and K. E. Nussear. 2017. Spatial demographic models to inform conservation planning of golden eagles in renewable energy landscapes. Journal of Raptor Research 51:234-257. doi:
  • Aiello, C. M., K. E. Nussear, T. C. Esque, P. G. Emblidge, P. Sah, S. Bansal, and P. J. Hudson. 2016. Host contact and shedding patterns clarify variation in pathogen exposure and transmission in threatened tortoise Gopherus agassizii: implications for disease modeling and management. The Journal of Animal Ecology 85:829-842. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12511.
  • Dilts, T. E., P. J. Weisberg, P. Leitner, M. D. Matocq, R. D. Inman, K. E. Nussear, and T. C. Esque. 2016. Multiscale connectivity and graph theory highlight critical areas for conservation under climate change. Ecological Applications 26:1223-1237. doi: 10.1890/15-0925.
  • Drake, K. K., L. Bowen, K. E. Nussear, T. C. Esque, A. J. Berger, N. A. Custer, S. C. Waters, J. D. Johnson, A. K. Miles, and R. L. Lewison. 2016. Negative impacts of invasive plants on conservation of sensitive desert wildlife. Ecosphere 7:1-20 doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1531.
  • Inman, R. D., T. C. Esque, K. E. Nussear, P. Leitner, M. D. Matocq, P. J. Weisberg, and T. E. Dilts. 2016. Impacts of climate change and renewable energy development on habitat of an endemic squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, in the Mojave Desert, USA. Biological Conservation 200:112-121. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.05.033.
  • Sah, P., K. E. Nussear, T. C. Esque, C. M. Aiello, P. J. Hudson, and S. Bansal. 2016. Inferring social structure and its drivers from refuge use in the desert tortoise, a relatively solitary species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. doi: 10.1101/025494.
  • Nussear, K. E. and T. D. Tuberville. 2014. Habitat Characteristics of North American Tortoises. In. Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises. In: Biology and Conservation of North American Tortoises. Ed. by David C. Rostal, Earl D. McCoy, and Henry R. Mushinsky. JHU Press. Chap. 9, p. 208.
  • Inman, R. D., T. C. Esque, K. E. Nussear, P. Leitner, M. D. Matocq, P. J. Weisberg, T. E. Dilts, and A. G. Vandergast. 2013. Is there room for all of us? Renewable energy and Xerospermophilus mohavensis. Endangered Species Research 20:1-18. doi: 10.3354/esr00487.
  • Van Linn, P. F., K. E. Nussear, T. C. Esque, L. A. Defalco, R. D. Inman, and S. R. Abella. 2013. Estimating wildfire risk on a Mojave Desert landscape using remote sensing and field sampling. International Journal of Wildland Fire 22:770-779. doi: 10.1071/WF12158.
  • Vandergast, A.G. , R. D. Inman, K. R. Barr, K. E. Nussear, T. C. Esque, S. A. Hathaway, D. A. Wood, P. A. Medica, J. W. Breinholt, C. L. Stephen, A. D. Gottscho, S. B. Marks, W. B. Jennings, and R. N. Fisher. 2013. Evolutionary hotspots in the mojave desert. Diversity 5:293- 319. doi: 10.3390/d5020293.
  • Nussear, K. E., C. R. Tracy, P. A. Medica, D. S. Wilson, R. W. Marlow, and P. S. Corn. 2012. Translocation as a conservation tool for Agassiz's desert tortoises: Survivorship, reproduction, and movements. Journal of Wildlife Management 76:1341-1353. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.390.
  • Hagerty, B. E., E. Nussear K, T. C. Esque, and C. R. Tracy. 2011. Making molehills out of mountains: Landscape genetics of the Mojave desert tortoise. Landscape Ecology 26:267-280. doi: 10.1007/s10980-010-9550-6.
  • Nussear, K. E., T. C. Esque, J. S. Heaton, M. E. Cablk, K. K. Drake, C. Valentin, J. L. Yee, and P.A. Medica. 2008. Are wildlife detection dogs or people better at finding desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 3:103-115.
  • Nussear, K. E. and C. R. Tracy. 2007. Can modeling improve estimation of desert tortoise population densities? Ecological Applications 17:579-586. doi: 10.1890/05-1970.
  • Tracy, C. R., K. E. Nussear, T. C. Esque, K. Dean-Bradley, C. R. Tracy, L. A. DeFalco, K. T. Castle, L. C. Zimmerman, R. E. Espinoza, and A. M. Barber. 2006. The importance of physiological ecology in conservation biology. Integrative and Comparative Biology 46:1191-1205. doi: 10.1093/icb/icl054.
  • Nussear, K. E., E. T. Simandle, and C. R. Tracy. 2000. Misconceptions about colour, infrered radi-ation, and energy exchange between animals and their environments. Herpetological Journal 10:119-122.