Oregon State University master’s graduate Kate Halstead has been honored by the North American Chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecology for her thesis, “Using a species-centered approach to predict bird community responses to habitat fragmentation.”

The chapter selected the thesis as the recipient of its 2021 Outstanding Paper in Landscape Ecology Award.

"I became intrigued by the idea of using large datasets of bird observations in concert with cutting-edge modeling techniques and unclassified land cover to examine lingering landscape ecology questions," Halstead said. "The power of our methods lies in their embrace of the complexity inherent in natural systems, providing insight in a way not possible using more traditional approaches."

Halstead’s paper, the chapter notes, tests hypotheses about the relative influence of habitat amount, configuration and focal patch size on Oregon bird communities. The nominator recognized the paper as outstanding for several reasons, including for grappling with one of “the most salient and fundamental questions in landscape ecology and conservation science: the relative importance of habitat loss vs. fragmentation on species richness.”

Halstead’s research occurred in the Rogue Basin watershed in southern Oregon’s Klamath Mountains with methodology that was “rigorous, innovative and powerful,” the nominator said.

Halstead, a research biologist at the Klamath Bird Observatory in Ashland, studied under Matt Betts in his Forest Landscape Ecology Lab in the College of Forestry. Betts was a co-author of the paper, published in Landscape Ecology, that came from Halstead’s work, along with two other scientists from the observatory.

“It is a tremendous honor for Kate’s paper to have been nominated and selected for this award,” Betts said. “Our hope is that the methods used in the paper can help the field of landscape ecology move toward a better understanding of fragmentation effects and community assembly, and ultimately more informed conservation decision making.”