Leslie Ries

Post-doctoral Researcher
Post-doctoral Scholar with SESYNC



My main interest is understanding how the spatial patterning of landscapes impacts local habitat quality, and how that information can be used to make better conservation and management decisions. To do this, I have focused primarily on the issue of edge effects. My overarching goal is to develop predictive models of edge effects at two levels. The first is a general edge effects model that allows researchers to predict, for any species in any landscape, whether organism densities should increase, decrease, or remain constant near edges. My field work to develop and test this model focused on butterflies, but I have also applied the model successfully in bird, mammal and plant systems.

The second model is the Effective Area Model. This was first proposed by Thomas Sisk and colleagues (Ecological Applications 1997:1170-1180). Working with Tom and others, we are developing this model into a practical tool that will be used by scientists or managers to extrapolate known (or hypothesized) edge responses over entire landscapes. This tool is being implemented within the ArcGIS environment and is currently under development.

We are developing and testing this model using bird data from two military bases, Ft. Hood in Texas and Ft. Benning in Georgia. Both bases grapple with balancing conservation management for endangered species (as well as the larger ecological community) with use for military training.

Recently, I have also added another dimension to my research. I have been working on the development and use of large, volunteer-based data sets to answer questions about ecology, conservation and evolution. My focus is on butterfly monitoring programs. The main dataset I have been working with is the July 4th butterfly counts run by the North American Butterfly Association. This program uses thousands of volunteers each year to collect butterfly data at ~450 sites throught the US, Canada and Mexico (see map to right). The program has been running since 1975 and has data from over 6000 surveys. I am also working with smaller monitoring programs from Ohio and Illinois. With these data sets, I am exploring butterfly population trends, tracking monarch population dynamics throughout their migration cycle and also looking at issues of mimicry at the continental scale.

Finally, I have been working to connect climate with butterfly distributions and have helped develop code that makes this process more tractable.

Publications *

  • Wimp, G. M., S. M. Murphy, D. Lewis L. and Ries. 2011. Do edge responses cascade up or down a multi-trophic food web? Ecology Letters 14: 863870. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01656.x pdf PDF
  • Koenig, W. D., L. Ries, B. K. Olsen and A. M. Liebhold. 2011. Avian predators are less abundant during periodical cicada emergences, but why? Ecology 92:784790. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L. and T. D. Sisk. 2010. What is an edge species? The implications of sensitivity to habitat edges. Oikos 119:16361642. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L. and S. P. Mullen. 2008. Frequency-dependent Batesian mimicry maintains the position of a butterfly hybrid zone. Evolution 62:1798-1803. pdf PDF
  • Calabrese, J.M., L. Ries, S. F. Matter, D. M. Debinski, J. N. Auckland, J. Roland and W. F. Fagan. 2008. Reproductive asynchrony in natural butterfly populations and its consequences for female matelessness. Journal of Animal Ecology 77:746-756. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L. and T.D. Sisk. 2008. Butterfly edge effects are predicted by a simple model in a complex landscape. Oecologia 156 (1): 75-86. pdf PDF
  • Fletcher, R.J., L. Ries, J. Battin and A.D. Chalfoun. 2007. The role of habitat area and edge in fragmented landscapes: definitively distinct or inevitably intertwined? Canadian Journal of Zoology 85 (10): 1017-1030. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L., R.J. Fletcher, J. Battin and T.D. Sisk. 2004. Ecological responses to habitat edges: Mechanisms, models, and variability explained. Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and Systematics 35: 491-522. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L. and T.D. Sisk. 2004. A predictive model of edge effects. Ecology 85 (11): 2917-2926. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L. and W. F. Fagan. 2003. Habitat edges as a potential ecological trap for an insect predator. Ecological Entomology 28:567-572. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L. and D.M. Debinski. 2001. Butterfly responses to habitat edges in the highly fragmented prairies of Central Iowa. Journal of Animal Ecology 70 (5): 840-852. pdf PDF
  • Ries, L., D.M. Debinski and M.L. Wieland. 2001. Conservation value of roadside prairie restoration to butterfly communities. Conservation Biology 15 (2): 401-411. pdf PDF

Leslie Reis

Map: July 4th butterfly count

[Map of data from July 4th butterfly counts]