Dr. David W. Tonkyn

Population ecology

Clemson University

New developments from our lab



Christie Sampson published two stories in Exposure, our graduate students' online magazine, about her work on mitigating human-elephant conflict in Myanmar, and her appointment with Jenifer Bunty as Emerging Scholars on a joint US-Russia project to mitigate human conflict with large carnivores, for which David Tonkyn is Co-Vice Chair. https://cafls-grad-research.exposure.co/



Carrie Well's phlyogenetics paper has now been published in Conservation Genetics and can be viewed at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10592-014-0694-9


A former graduate student Isaac Park and David Tonkyn published a laboratory excercise, "How many species are there? Determining species richness" in Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology.  This was developed for our general ecology lab, and refined over the years.





Christie Sampson spent three weeks tracking, capturing and attaching satellite-GPS collars to four wild Asian elephants near a remote village in Myanmar that experiences severe crop losses to elephants and both human and elephant deaths.  This collaborative effort between Clemson, the Smithsonian Institution and the Myanmar government will study the movements of elephants before, during, and after conflicts with humans, and monitor mitigation strategies over the next few years.  goal is to help humans and elephants coexist in one of the last wild places on earth.



Another paper from Carrie Wells' dissertation has just been accepted for publication.  The paper is, "The phylogenetic history of the threatened Diana fritillary, Speyeria diana (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), with implications for conservation" by CN Wells, PB Marko and DW Tonkyn, and it will be published in the journal, Conservation Genetics



I taught another class on Rocky Mountain Field Ecology which included, for the first time, visiting the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge where we had lunch in a prairie dog colony then discovered up close the difficulty of driving on (greasy) gumbo roads, and the vast distances between ranch houses in eastern Montana.  We hiked extensively in Yellowstone National Park and visted he Beartooth Plateau, Grand Teton National Park, Gros Ventre River, and many other wonderful places. 



David Tonkyn accompanied 6 students from the CU Tigers for Tigers Club to the Second Annual T4T Coalition Summit, held at the University of Missouri.  It was well organized and attended, with twice as many schools and students as the first Summit which we organized last April, and with new speakers and committments from all.  Ria Landreth and her team from the Mizzou T4T did an outstanding job.  See a TV report at http://www.komu.com/videoplayer/?video_id=22809&categories=5 .



Christie Sampson and David Tonkyn attended the Eurasia Foundation's Protection of Flora and Fauna Working Group session in Jackson, WY, where we met with US and Russian colleagues and finalized plans to compare selected protected areas in both countries.


David Tonkyn took 10 Clemson students to India over spring break to see Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserves, Keoladeo National Park, and cultural wonders such as the Grand Mosque and Taj Mahal. This was our 10th trip to India with students, and every traveler has seen a wild tiger!


Carrie Wells was offered the position of Lecturer in Biological Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Congratulations Carrie!



Jenifer Morton headed to the Russian Far East to become the first Clemson student to study tigers in the wild.  She is working with a WCS team led by Dr. Dale Miquelle to compare tracking versus camera trapping as ways to measure prey density.  Here she is tracking three tigers, a mother named Varvarra with two, nearly full grown cubs.


Our paper, "A Hierarchical Approach to Designing Compact Ecological Reserve Systems", by Lakmali Weerasena, Douglas Shier, and David Tonkyn was published online by Environmental Modeling and Assessment.  Available on request or at  





Christie Sampson received her MS degree in BIological Sciences in part for her thesis, Conserving the land of the giants: Critical threats to Asian elephant habitat in Sri Lankan protected areas." She immediately entered the PhD program, and will now study elephant habitat use and human-elephant conflict in Myanmar.


Our paper, Range collapse in the Diana fritillary, Speyeria diana (Nymphalidae), by Carrie N. Wells and David W. Tonkyn was published online by Insect Conservation and Diversity. Available on request or at




Christie Sampson and David Tonkyn were 2 of 5 Americans to join an equal number of Russians on the Protection of Flora and Fauna Working Group, part of the Eurasia Foundation’s US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange program (SEE).  We met in Washington, DC and created a plan for a comparative analysis of the ecosystem values of the Lake Baikal and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems.  SEE will hire Emerging and Senior Scholars from both countries to conduct the analysis.



David Tonkyn served for the past two years on a Presidential task force to create a "transformational" change to the undergraduate curriculum. We decided to institute the intentional teaching of critical thinking skills in sophomore-level seminar courses that would be writing- and discussion-intensive. Our students graduate above average in critical thinking skills but then they arrive as freshmen with above average skills. CT courses are now available in a range of general education and major courses, and the students and courses will be monitored for progress.