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Dr. Sarah Saunders joined National Audubon Society in 2018, where she is a quantitative ecologist in the Science division. Residing in Michigan, Sarah primarily works on projects focused on the Great Lakes region, including modeling occupancy and abundance trends of marshbirds, coordinating science work across Audubon's Great Lakes Initiative, assisting in development writing to further regional conservation efforts, and collaborating with the Audubon Great Lakes team in Chicago. Sarah has also conducted analyses of Audubon’s Climate Watch data to determine how climate change is impacting the distributions of bluebirds and nuthatches throughout the United States.
Sarah has a strong background in population ecology and conservation. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota (working with Dr. Francie Cuthbert), where she studied the environmental and genetic factors influencing survival and reproduction of Great Lakes Piping Plovers, an endangered shorebird. Most recently, she conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. Elise Zipkin at Michigan State University. While there, Sarah modeled the abundance, distribution, and climatic drivers of monarch butterfly populations using community science data. Sarah also specializes in integrated population modeling, a method that enables incorporation of multiple data types and seasonal factors into a unified analysis for improved inference on population dynamics. In addition to birds, Sarah has also studied organisms as diverse as red-sided garter snakes and tigers.