Jessie Knowlton

Assistant Professor of Biology




Biology, Environmental Studies


Mars Science Center 2137


I am an avian ecologist and conservation biologist. I teach Ecology, Ornithology, and Conservation Science, all with labs. I also co-teach an interdisciplinary study abroad course in Ecuador during the summers. My research is focused on how species and communities of birds, mammals, and arthropods respond to human-induced changes in habitats and landscapes. I am also interested in how whole socio-ecological systems respond to change, and I enjoy collaborating with social scientists. 


Ph.D., Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, 2010
B.S., Ecology and Evolution, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, 2003

Research Interests

My research is focused on how ecological communities respond to anthropogenic impacts, including invasive species, habitat fragmentation, changing land uses, and climate change. I hope that my work and that of my students will contribute to the maintenance of intact ecological communities for future generations to enjoy and utilize. Humans are, in fact, part of ecosystems, and my work has evolved to become more interdisciplinary, taking into account the complexity of socio-ecological systems. I enjoy conducting research locally and throughout Latin America.

Teaching Interests

I truly enjoy interacting with diverse students and learning as much from them and the process of teaching as they learn from me. I am committed to getting students actively involved and engaged, appealing to a wide diversity of students, and incorporating ongoing assessment of both teaching and learning. Given my background in ecology and evolution, interdisciplinary scientific research and teamwork, conservation biology and sustainability, I enjoy teaching subjects around those themes. Examples of courses I may teach include ecology, introductory biology (evolution & ecology), conservation biology, behavioral ecology, ornithology, and field ecology.


Wilson Rankin, E.E., J.L. Knowlton, D.J. Flaspohler, C.P. Giardina, D.S. Gruner, D.R. Leopold, A. Buckardt, W.C. Pitt, T. Fukami. 2018. Vertical foraging shifts in Hawaiian forest birds in response to invasive rat removal. PLoS One. 13(9): e0202869. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202869

Knowlton, J.L., D.J. Flaspohler. 2018. Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital of the Tizimín region of the Yucatán, Mexico. In: The Quest for Jatropha Biodiesel and Sustainability in Yucatan. A. Eastmond, J. Sacramento, and S. Sweitz (editors). Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan Mérida, Yucatán, México. pp. 103-130. ebook.

Testa, G.M., J.L. Knowlton, C.C. Phifer, A.M. Roth, C.R. Webster, D.J. Flaspohler. 2018. Avian community response to short-rotation aspen forest management: implications for bioenergy development. Northeastern Naturalist. 25:308-318.

Brito, T.F., Contrera, P.A.L., Phifer, C.C., Knowlton, J.L., Brasil, L.S., Maues, M.M., and Silva, D.P. 2018. Effects of habitat type change on taxonomic and functional composition of orchid bees (Apidae: Euglossini) in the Brazilian Amazon. Journal of Insect Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-018-0073-9

Pischke, E.E., J.L. Knowlton, C.C. Phifer, J.G. Lopez, T.S. Propato, A. Eastmond, T. Martins de Souza, M. Kuhlberg, V. Picasso Risso, S.R. Veron, C. Garcia, M. Chiappe, K.E. Halvorsen. 2017. Barriers and Solutions to Conducting Large International, Interdisciplinary Research Projects. Environmental Management. DOI 10.1007/s00267-017-0939-8

Brito, T.F., C.C. Phifer, J.L. Knowlton, C.M. Fiser, N.M. Becker, F.C. Barros, F.A.L. Contrera, M.M. Maués, L. Juen, L.F.A. Montag, C.R. Webster, D.J. Flaspohler, M.P.D. Santos, D.P. Silva. 2017. Forest reserves and riparian corridors help maintain orchid bee communities in oil palm plantations. Apidologie. doi: 10.1007/s13592-017-0500-z

Knowlton, J.L., D.J. Flaspohler, E.H. Paxton, T. Fukami, C.P. Giardina, D.S. Gruner, E.E. Wilson Rankin. 2017. Dynamic movements of a Hawaiian avian community across a naturally fragmented landscape. Journal of Avian Biology. doi: 10.1111/jav.00924

Jiménez, M.M., S.S. Soto, E.G. López, J.R. Nápoles, J.L. Knowlton, C. Phifer, D. Flaspohler, A.J. Jiménez Méndez. 2017. Diversidad y abundancia de abejas (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) en agroecosistemas de palma aceitera y pastos cultivados, en Tabasco, México. Revista Nicaraguense de Entomologia 115:1-20.

Knowlton, J.L., C.C. Phifer, P.V. Cerqueira, F.C. Barro, S. Oliveira, C.M. Fiser, N.M. Becker, M.R. Cardoso, D.J. Flaspohler, M.P.D. Santos. 2017. Oil palm plantations affect movement behavior of a key member of mixed-species flocks of forest birds in Amazonia, Brazil. Tropical Conservation Science 10:1-10. doi: 10.1177/1940082917692800

Phifer, C.C., J.L. Knowlton, C.R. Webster, D.J. Flaspohler, J.A. Licata. 2016. Bird community responses to afforested eucalyptus plantations in the Argentine pampas. Biodiversity and Conservation. doi:10.1007/s10531-016-1126-6

Halvorsen, K.E., J.L. Knowlton, A.S. Mayer, C.C. Phifer, T. Martins, E.C. Pischke, T.S. Propato, P. Cavigliasso, C. Garcia, M. Chiappe, A. Eastmond, J. Licata, M. Kuhlberg, R. Medeiros, V. Picasso, G. Mendez, P. Primo, A. Frado, S. Veron, J.L. Dunn. 2016. A case study of strategies for fostering international, interdisciplinary research. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 6: 313-323.

Thornton, B., J.L. Knowlton, W.A. Kuntz. 2015. Interspecific competition and social hierarchies in frugivorous Neotropical birds of Costa Rica. Journal of Young Investigators 29: 1-6.

Knowlton, J.L., K.E. Halvorsen, R. Handler, M. O’Rourke. 2014. Teaching Interdisciplinary Sustainability Science Teamwork Skills to Graduate Students Using In-person and Web-based Interactions. Sustainability 6: 9428-9440.

Knowlton, J.L., D.J. Flaspohler, N.C. Rotzel McInerney, R.C. Fleischer. 2014. First record of hybridization in the Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Iiwi (Vestiaria coccinea) x Apapane (Himatione sanguinea). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126: 562-568.

Knowlton, J.L., D.J. Flaspohler. 2013. The Kipuka Project: Understanding the threats to one of the most imperiled bird communities in the world. ‘Elepaio (Journal of the Hawaii Audubon Society) 73: 3-5.

Sridhar, H., U. Srinivasan, R.A. Askins, J.C. Canales-Delgadillo, C.C. Chen, D.N. Ewert, G.A. Gale, E. Goodale, W.K. Gram, P.J. Hart, K.A. Hobson, R.L. Hutto, S.W. Kotagama, J.L. Knowlton, T. M. Lee, C.A. Munn, S. Nimnuan, B.Z. Nizam, G. Péron, V.V. Robin, A.D. Rodewald, P.G. Rodewald, R.L. Thomson, P. Trivedi, S.L. Van Wilgenburg, K. Shanker. 2012. Positive Relationships between Association Strength and Phenotypic Similarity Characterize the Assembly of Mixed-Species Bird Flocks Worldwide. American Naturalist 180: 777-790.

Knowlton, J.L., C.H. Graham. 2011. Species interactions are disrupted by habitat degradation in the highly threatened Tumbesian region of Ecuador. Ecological Applications 21: 2974-2986.

Knowlton, J.L., C.H. Graham. 2010. Using behavioral landscape ecology to predict species’ responses to land-use and climate change. Biological Conservation 143: 1342-1354.

Knowlton, J.L. 2010. Breeding records of birds from the Tumbesian region of Ecuador. Ornith. Neotropical 21: 109-129.

Knowlton, J., C.J. Donlan, G.W. Roemer, and B.S. Keitt. 2007. Non-native mammal eradications and the status of insular mammals on the California Channel Islands, U.S.A., and Pacific Baja California Islands, México. Southwestern Naturalist 52: 528-540.

Donlan, C. J., J. Knowlton, D.F. Doak. N. Biavaschi. 2005. Nested communities, invasive species, and Holocene extinctions: Evaluating the power of a potential conservation tool. Oecologia 145: 475-485.

Student Projects

Ana Malachi is currently working on an honor’s senior thesis entitled: “American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) Nest Box Occupancy and Success in Cranberry Bogs in Southeastern Massachusetts”

Andres Ripley completed a project entitled: “Impacts of oil palm plantations on mammal occurrence and activity patterns in Tabasco, Mexico.”