David L Otis

Retired Unit Leader
Photograph of David L. Otis

In 2001 I returned to my home state of Iowa to become the Leader of the Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Iowa State University.  This move represented the latest chapter in a long history of association with the Unit Program.  I began my post-graduate school career in 1976 as a post-doctoral student in the Utah Cooperative Unit at Utah State University, and I was Leader of the South Carolina Unit at Clemson University for 10 years from 1991 – 2001.  In the interim, during my years as a scientist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I also spent a year as a visiting scientist in the New York Cooperative Unit at Cornell University.  Thus, a common thread in my career has been the Unit Program, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to its long history of excellence in graduate education and research.


A primary focus of my research career has been the development and evaluation of quantitative methods for application in field ecology.  Much of this work has focused on estimation of population parameters using techniques such as mark-recapture, change-in-ratio, band recovery, and distance sampling.  More recently, I have been interested in improvements to design and analysis of habitat selection studies, analysis of telemetry data, use of mark-recapture data for testing additive and compensatory mortality hypotheses in exploited species, and evaluation of surveillance sampling designs for wildlife disease.

For the past 15 years, I have directed students and done personal research on the population dynamics and biology of mourning doves.  I was recently a member of a team of federal and state biologists that developed a new national strategic vision for improving harvest management of doves. As a critical component of this plan, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and more than 30 state wildlife agencies, I designed and coordinated a national banding study that resulted in population and harvest information necessary to support population models that will be used in support of the harvest management plan.

Most recently, I been involved in projects to develop 1) dove harvest management strategies using statistical hierarchical models, 2) a statistical design for the national operational banding program, 3) a field sampling protocol and statistical model for estimation of annual recruitment from age ratios of harvested birds.

A third research focus has been to direct field studies that address questions about the effects of habitat management, restoration, or anthropogenic stressors on population biology of wildlife species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, bobwhite quail, and American oystercatcher.  I have also directed several students in projects that involved assessment of amphibian populations in restored wetlands, and I am currently involved in a multidisciplinary modeling project for predicting wildlife habitat values of constructed wetlands in agricultural landscapes in Iowa.


A ECL 575
Quantitative Methods in Field Ecology. The goal of the course is to equip students with statistical concepts and tools that are of practical use and importance in wildlife and fisheries research and management endeavors. The course will include computer labs to gain experience in data analysis and interpretation. The course will provide students with a set of statistical design and analysis tools that will be useful in their graduate program and future career.

Area of Expertise: 
Field Ecology
B.S., 1971
M.S., 1974
Ph.D., Colorado State University, 1976