Kenneth Nussear: Habitat suitability models

Kenneth Nussear


Habitat suitability models


Kenneth Nussear




Kenneth Nussear’s 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, and nutritional requirements. 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. He uses many GIS-based approaches to model species habitat and conduct spatial analyses in light of these constraints, and with changes in habitat quality, and changes in climate.

Project overview

Habitat suitability models are frequently used as a species management tool for tasks such as the design of conservation and monitoring programs, species richness assessments, and the evaluation of potential changes in species distributions as a result of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance. Species distribution models (SDMs) can be valuable tools for use in planning efforts toward the conservation of species. Models that include relevant information matching species needs and limitations, such as physiological tolerances, are more likely to accurately reflect species distributions as well as their reactions to changing conditions. The Geospatial Ecology lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, is working with Clark County, Nevada to update species distribution models for use in current county wide conservation efforts. We are seeking a motivated, GIS savvy undergraduate who will participate in all phases of this research, from gathering new locality data and information for sensitive species throughout the county, collecting and working with, and developing large raster datasets that are used as environmental layers that are critical toward completing these models.