Dr. Alyson McKnight

Visiting Assistant Professor of Wildlife & Fisheries Management

Staff photo
Phone: 207-509-7185
Email: amcknight@unity.edu
Office: Constable Hall

 

Visiting Assistant Professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Management

Aly McKnight is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Management in the School of Biodiversity Conservation at Unity College. Prior to working at Unity College, she worked for over a decade for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Anchorage Alaska studying seabird population dynamics and the recovery of Prince William Sound seabirds following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

 

Courses taught at Unity College

WF 3103: Habitat Assessment and Management

WF 3013: Population Assessment and Management

BI  3053: Marine Botany

TBA

 

Research interests

The overarching theme of my research is to explore how environmental and community interactions combine to influence individuals, and how these individual experiences scale up to drive wildlife population dynamics. Human activities are altering ecosystems across the globe through resource depletion, habitat degradation, climate change, and other avenues. These changes impose new physiological constraints on organisms, shift species distributions, and disrupt predator-prey and other community-level interactions. In response, natural resource conservation and management strategies are shifting from a species-specific focus to ecosystem-based approaches, yet the relationships among organisms and between organisms and their physical environment are not always well understood. This limitation hinders our interpretive, predictive, and mitigative powers with respect to large-scale environmental disturbances such as climate change. The better we understand how multiple stressors combine to affect populations and communities, the better equipped we will be to face environmental challenges head on.

My work to date has focused on avian population dynamics, using seabirds as a model system. During my years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, in addition to monitoring seabird recovery following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I also explored questions regarding how individual birds make movement decisions during the non-breeding season, a time period that can have enormous influence on survival and future reproduction. My dissertation work investigated reproductive costs and the factors driving reproductive success in seabirds in both Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Maine. Further, I recently concluded an interdisciplinary, integrated ecosystem project in the Gulf of Maine, where I worked with scientists from several New England research institutes along with federal and state agencies to model and identify biological hotspots in the Gulf of Maine through simultaneous surveys of physics, plankton, fish, and seabirds. Even more recently, I have been collaborating with Dr. Emma Perry (Unity College), and several Unity College students to investigate questions regarding the ecological role of floating algal mats in the Gulf of Maine’s pelagic zone. In the future, I will continue my work with biologists from the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the National Audubon Society to address pressing questions regarding seabird populations here in the Gulf of Maine.

 

Education

Ph.D. University of Maine, Orono

M.Sc. University of Massachusetts, Amherst

B.A.  Connecticut College, New London

 

Publications

McKnight, A., 2017. Population ecology of colonially breeding seabirds: How intrinsic processes, mediating influences, and individual heterogeneity affect population vital rates. Doctoral dissertation, University of Maine, Orono. 199 pp.

Allyn, A.J., McKnight, A., McGarigal, K., Griffin, C.R., Kuletz, K.J., Cushing, D.A. & Irons, D.B., 2015. Assessing a paired logistic regression model of presence-only data to map important habitat areas of the rare Kittlitz’s Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris. Marine Ornithology 43: 65–76.

McKnight, A., Allyn, A. J., Duffy, D. C., & Irons, D. B., 2013. ‘Stepping stone’pattern in Pacific Arctic tern migration reveals the importance of upwelling areas. Marine Ecology Progress Series 491: 253-264.

Duffy, D. C., McKnight, A., & Irons, D. B., 2013. Trans-Andean passage of migrating Arctic terns over Patagonia. Marine Ornithology 41: 155-159.

Kuletz, K. J., Nations, C. S., Manly, B., Allyn, A. J., Irons, D. B., & McKnight, A., 2013. Brachyramphus murrelet trends and the Prince William Sound, Alaska surveys: A response to Hodges and Kirchhoff. Marine Ornithology 41: 69-71.

Allyn, A. J., McKnight, A., McGarigal, K., Griffin, C. R., Kuletz, K. J., & Irons, D. B., 2012. Relationships among Kittlitz’s murrelet habitat use, temperature-depth profiles, and landscape features in Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 466: 233-247.

McKnight A., Irons, D.B., Allyn, A.J., Sullivan, K.M., & Suryan, R.M., 2011. Winter dispersal and activity patterns of post-breeding black-legged kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla from Prince William Sound, Alaska. Marine Ecology Progress Series 442: 241-253.

Kuletz, K. J., Nations, C. S., Manly, B., Allyn, A.J., Irons, D. B., & McKnight, A., 2011. Distribution, abundance, and population trends of the Kittlitz’s Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostris in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Marine Ornithology, 39, 97-109.

Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Sullivan, K., Irons, D., & McKnight, A., 2008. Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, mercury, and selenium in feathers of black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and black oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) from Prince William Sound, Alaska.  Science of the Total Environment 398(1-3): 20-25.

Juanes, F., Lee, K.T., McKnight, A., & Kellogg, K., 2008. Claw allometry in green crabs, Carcinus maenas: heterochely, handedness, and sex. Marine Biology 153: 523-528.

McKnight, A., Sullivan, K.M., Irons, D.B., Stephensen, S.W., & Howlin, S. 2008.  Marine bird and sea otter population abundance of Prince William Sound, Alaska: trends following the T/V Exxon Valdez oil spill, 1989-2007.  Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Project Annual Report (Restoration Project 070751), U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.

McKnight, A., Sullivan, K.M., Irons, D.B., Stephensen, S.W., & Howlin, S. 2006. Marine bird and sea otter population abundance of Prince William Sound, Alaska: trends following the T/V Exxon Valdez oil spill, 1989-2005. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Project Final Report (Restoration Projects 040159/050751), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.

Sullivan, K.M., McKnight, A.E., Irons, D.B., Stephensen, S.W. & Howlin, S., 2004.  Marine bird and sea otter population abundance of Prince William Sound, Alaska: trends following the T/V Exxon Valdez oil spill, 1989-2004.  Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Project Annual Report (Restoration Project 04159), U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.

McKnight A.E., Sullivan, K.M., Stephensen, S.W., Irons, D.B., Kuletz, K.J., & Labunski, E.A., 2003. Distribution, abundance, and foraging behavior of Kittlitz’s (Brachyramphus brevirostris) and marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) in College and Harriman fjords, Prince William Sound, Alaska, in summer 2003.  Unpublished Report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, Anchorage, Alaska.

Labunski, E.A., Irons, D.B., Kuletz, K.J., McKnight, A.E., Sullivan, K.M., & Stephensen, S.W., 2003. Monitoring Kittlitz’s and marbled murrelets in College and Harriman fiords, Prince William Sound, Alaska, aboard a tour boat summer 2003. Unpublished Report, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, Anchorage, Alaska.

McKnight, A., Mathews, L.M., Avery, R., & Lee, K.T., 2000. Distribution is correlated with color phase in green crabs, Carcinus maenas (Linnaeus, 1758) in southern New England. Crustaceana 73: 763 – 768.

McKnight, A.E., 1999. Behavioral and physiological ecology of an invasive marine crab (Carcinus maenas).  Masters thesis.  University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Mathews, L.M., A.E. McKnight, R. Avery, and K.T. Lee, 1999. Incidence of autotomy in New England populations of green crabs, Carcinus maenas, and an examination of the effect of claw autotomy on diet. Journal of Crustacean Biology 19: 713-719.