Photo of wildlife research
Featured Research

Ecology and Population Dynamics of Elk in Fragmented Forests of Appalachia

Photo of researcher with elk

A McIntire-Stennis supported project

Elk were common to the eastern U.S. prior to 1800, but hunting and other pressures caused their demise. There is now significant interest and activity in reintroducing elk to many states to provide recreational and economic opportunities and return an important species to the ecosystem. In the absence of large predators like the gray wolf, rapid population growth of elk in states like Kentucky have posed challenges to management of this wide-ranging species, particularly where high population densities occur. Populations must be managed to ensure that recreation and economic opportunities are sustained while minimizing negative impacts to the environment and humans.

McIntire-Stennis supported research at the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry and Natural Resources aims to quantify important aspects of reintroduced elk populations that are important in managing the species in the Appalachian region. Research is also characterizing the ecological impacts of elk including the browsing of tree seedlings that impedes the regeneration of native forests and reclaimed surface mines, spread of invasive species, and human-elk interactions.


Researchers have worked in partnership with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Morehead State University, University of Tennessee, USDA Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to advance elk reintroductions and population management. 


20 years of research continues to inform management of elk in Kentucky and characterize important ecological impacts of this large herbivore on forest communities and reforestation sites. 

Icon - coins

$1.5 million

in competitive grant funds for elk research in Kentucky.

Icon - academics

22 and 400

graduate students with published science and undergraduate students involved in elk research and education.

1 and 3.5 million

annual economic contribution of elk hunting in Kentucky and the number of acres in Appalachia that this on-going research impacts.

Ecology and Conservation of Forest-Dwelling North American Bats

A McIntire-Stennis supported project

Threatened and endangered species, including a number of forest dwelling bats, are an important ecological concern and also pose challenges for forest operations throughout the US, potentially impacting economically feasible access to billions of dollars in timber assets. Bats are experiencing significant declines from disease, climate change, pesticides, wind power development, and a host of changes to our forested landscapes. McIntire-Stennis supported research at the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry and Natural Resources has focused on management of forested landscapes for bats, addressing timber extraction, prescribed fire, and impacts from white-nose syndrome, a disease specific to populations of bats in Kentucky and the eastern US.

Research efforts have been directed at understanding specific dietary, roosting, and foraging requirements of bats, and how these needs are influenced by changes in land use practices. The goal of this research is to educate management efforts for imperiled bat species by providing a better understanding of the ecology and habitat requirements of these bats and how they are likely to be affected by proposed and existing forest management policies.

Photo of bat research


Researchers at the University of Kentucky are working in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Nature Preserves, and Industry TIMOs.


Understanding the biology and requirements of imperiled bat species along with their response to forest use and change allows us to develop better management strategies and help inform policies that can aid in benefiting these species and help ensure continued conservation and use of our forests.

Icon - academics

68 and 100+

students, undergraduate and graduate, trained and scientific publications generated from this on-going research.

Icon - tree

13 Million

acres of forest lands spanning 8 states in eastern, Midwestern and northwestern US, have instituted management changes to improve bat habitat.

About McIntire-Stennis

The McIntire-Stennis program, a unique federal-state partnership, cultivates and delivers forestry and natural resource innovations for a better future. By advancing research and education that increases the understanding of emerging challenges and fosters the development of relevant solutions, the McIntire-Stennis program has ensured healthy resilient forests and communities and an exceptional natural resources workforce since 1962.

Additional Research

Impacts of snake fungal disease on wild snake populations

Snake fungal disease is an emerging threat to snake populations in the Commonwealth and throughout the eastern US. Infected snakes often have skin ulcers, facial swelling, unusual molting and aberrant behaviors. Read more.


Using Landscape Genetics to Investigate Red Wolf-Coyote Hybridization and Coyote Colonization of Kentucky

The red wolf is a critically endangered canid species that numbers < 100 individuals in the wild. In contrast, the coyote has rapidly expanded its range and population size...Read more.


Detecting the (Not-so) Common Raven in Kentucky

The common raven (Corvus corax) is a cliff-nesting bird species of concern and state listed as threatened in Kentucky. Suitable breeding habitat appears to be extensive in Kentucky but the status...Read more.


Demographic and genetic characteristics of a recolonizing black bear population in eastern Kentucky

Black bears are thought to have become extinct in Kentucky before 1900 as a result of overhunting and forest loss. Bears began a steady recolonization... Read more.


Using Landscape Genetics to Evaluate the Impact of Forest Fragmentation on Pit Vipers

Globally, habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary threat to most species. Central Appalachia contains high biodiversity, but has been heavily impacted...Read more.


The Effects of Herbivory, Competition, and Fire on Bluegrass Savanna-Woodland Hardwoods of Central Kentucky

Central Kentucky was rapidly settled and divided up among landowners by 1800, a process that led to the extinction of the bison, elk, wolf, black bear and mountain lion in this area, and to the gradual extinction of its savanna-woodland landscape. Read more.

Impact of Timber Harvest on Breeding Birds in a Mixed-mesophytic Forest

Kentucky’s forests are highly biodiverse, and timber harvest can negatively impact forest communities by causing direct or indirect mortality of organisms via habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Read more.

Roosting ecology, reproduction and torpor patterns of little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park

The little brown bat is the most important species of bat in YNP both in terms of abundance and impact on night flying insects. These bats rely heavily on...Read more.


Salamander population dynamics in relation to land-use in Eastern Kentucky

Human-induced, land-use changes are among the primary causes of ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. Across central Appalachia, land-use change represents a stressor to stream ecosystems. Read more.


Roosting behavior and habitat selection of northern long-eared bats during spring emergence and autumn swarming in Mammoth Cave National Park

The northern long-eared bat is a cave-hibernating species in eastern North America that once was common across its distribution but, due to catastrophic mortalities during hibernation from white-nose syndrome, has declined... Read more.


The Ecology of the Martial Eagle in the Maasai Mara Region of Southern Kenya

Apex (top) predators are critical components of ecosystems, the loss of which can result in a domino (trophic cascade) effect that impacts entire areas and food webs. The Martial Eagle is the largest species of eagle in Africa but its population is declining...Read more.


Survival and cause-specific mortality of white-tailed deer in southeastern Kentucky

White-tailed deer numbers were ~2000 at the turn of the 20th century, but aggressive restocking efforts and game laws catalyzed the rapid expansion and growth of deer, particularly from 1980-2000. Read more.


Elk Research

Learn more about the various elk research projects. Read more.