Chris Smith

Lecturer I
Chris Smith holds a lizard


Chris grew up in the forests of western Washington, where he fell in love with natural history, birds, tracking, and mentoring others about nature. After completing his undergraduate in Wildlife Conservation and Management from Humboldt State University, Chris spent 5 years working around the globe with various research projects, including fairywren behavior in Australia, neotropical nest searching in the Peruvian Amazon, Saker Falcons in Mongolia, bird banding in Costa Rica, shorebird monitoring in Alaska, baboon behavior in Namibia, and many more. In 2016, Chris graduated with his master's degree looking at ecosystem services performed by birds in coffee farms in Kenya, and shifted into teaching outdoor education. He worked for 4 years for various non-profits, including Appalachian Mtn Club, Wilderness Awareness School, and Ecology Project International teaching leadership and ecology-based field courses for high schoolers, while in the summers leading college-level ecology courses to Mongolia and Costa Rica for Round River Conservation (which he continues to do).

Chris has taught at UNR at Lake Tahoe since 2020, teaching mostly field courses related to ecology, natural history, and statistics.

When not engaged in field research with students, Chris loves hanging out with his wife in the tiny house they built, or being outdoors backpacking, birding, hunting, throwing frisbees, or skiing.

Research interests

  • Ornithology
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Population Ecology and Modeling
  • Natural History
  • Plant Taxonomy and Ethnobotany
  • Mammalogy
  • Outdoor Education


  • B.S. in Wildlife Management and Conservation from Humboldt State University, 2010
  • M.S. in Wildlife Management and Conservation from Humboldt State University 2014

Recent publications

  • Campos, B.R., Smith, C.J. and Johnson, M.D., 2023. Habitat selection by an avian predator of insect pests on Jamaican coffee farms. Global Ecology and Conservation, 44, p.e02479.
  • D. Ganbold and C. Smith. 2019. A Field Guide to the Birds of Mongolia. John Beaufoy Publishing.
  • C. Smith, A. Whitworth, E. Brunner, M. Pomilia. 2020. Habitat selection and diet of the Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis) on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, and range-wide monitoring recommendations. Neotropical Biodiversity.
  • V. Jirinec, C.P. Varian, C.J. Smith, and M. Leu. 2020. Lessons from Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) telemetry: Synchronous tail replacement in prebasic molt and single-male nest provisioning. Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
  • M. Call, M.L. Schummer, C. Smith, B. Dovchin, B. Tumur, B. Byambaa, T. Jal, R. Watters. 2019. Surveys of waterbirds in the Darkhad Depression, Mongolia, during summer and autumn. Wildfowl 188-205.
  • Smith, C., Milligan, M.C., Johnson, M.D. and Njoroge, P., 2018. Bird community response to landscape and foliage arthropod variables in sun coffee of central Kenyan highlands. Global Ecology and Conservation, 13, p.e00378.
  • Milligan, M.C., M.D. Johnson, M. Garfinkel, C.Smith, P. Njoroge. 2016. Quantifying pest control services by birds and ants in Kenyan coffee farms. Biological Conservation. 
  • Smith, C., Walker, L.K. and Ewen, J.G., 2015. Age and sex criteria for the hihi (Notiomystis cincta) with additional details on moult patterns. Notornis, 62(3), pp.135-142.
  • V. Jirinec, C.P. Varian, C.J. Smith, M. Leu. 2015. Mismatch between diurnal home ranges and roosting areas in the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina): Possible role of habitat and breeding stage. Auk 13:1-12.
  • Smith, C., D.C. Barton, M.D. Johnson, C. Wendt, M.C. Milligan, P. Njoroge, P. Gichuki. 2015. Bird communities in sun and shade coffee farms in Kenya. Global Ecology and Conservation 479-490.
  • Smith, C., and G.A. London. First description of nest, eggs, incubation behavior, and nestlings of Trilling Tapaculo (Scytalopus parvirostris). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126(1):81-85, 2014.
  • Smith, C., and G. A. Londono.  Notes on the Nests, Eggs, Incubation Period, and Nestling Development of Thripadectes holostictus moderatus. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125(1):222–226, 2013
  • Smith, C., M. Johnson, B. Compos, and C. Bishop.  Variation in Aggression of Black-throated Blue Warblers Wintering in Jamaica.  The Condor.  2012.

Courses taught

  • Animal Behavior
  • Statistics
  • Biological Statistics in R
  • Lake Tahoe Natural History
  • Ornithology
  • Ecology
  • Senior Research
  • Research Methods
  • Environmental Interpretation
  • Environmental Science
  • Conservation Biology (Round River Conservation)
  • Humans and the Environment (Round River Conservation)
  • Mongolia Natural History (Round River Conservation)
  • Field Methods (Round River Conservation)