Dan Ruthrauff

I am a Research Wildlife Biologist with the US Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center, and have been actively studying Alaskan shorebirds since 1996. I have pursued studies of foraging ecology and reproductive biology, helped document the status and distribution of shorebirds in Alaska and beyond, and been involved in studies to determine the migratory connectivity, migration ecology, and conservation ecology of long-distance migratory shorebirds.

I conducted my Master’s thesis on the reproductive ecology of Western Sandpipers on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, working with Brian McCaffery and studying under Dr. Mark Colwell at Humboldt State University. Upon graduation in 2002, I began working for Bob Gill and Lee Tibbitts at the US Geological Survey. It was through Bob that I became acquainted with Team Piersma personnel. In 2004, I shared time at a camp on Egegik Bay on the Alaska Peninsula with Anne Dekinga. Anne was along to assess the viability of the site for capturing Bar-tailed Godwits; suitably impressed by the region’s shorebirds, Anne returned in 2005 with Theunis and Petra, girded for battle to capture godwits. Despite failing miserably to capture even a single fall-staging godwit (and gloriously failing in this pursuit ever since), a friendship was created.

This friendship evolved in 2007 when Bob innocently asked if I’d ever considered pursuing a PhD. Bob and Theunis had long traded ideas about the unusual winter ecology of Rock Sandpipers in upper Cook Inlet, Alaska. They’d excitedly discussed Bob pursuing a PhD on the subject…but as Bob’s interests were drawn to the ecology of long-distance migration, he generously ceded the idea to me. In 2009, I invited myself along on an expedition to equip Black-tailed Godwits breeding in Friesland with satellite transmitters. On this visit I met current and former graduate students, and visited NIOZ. Later that fall, I arrived on Texel, with 30 Rock Sandpipers in tow, to begin a PhD on the behavioral, environmental, and physiological aspects of this unusual winter ecology. I defended my PhD in 2014 (my thesis is available here). My current research focuses primarily on the response of shorebirds to climate change, specifically focusing on the timing of reproductive events and their overlap with food resources (more information here). I still dabble in attempting to catch Bar-tailed Godwits during fall.

Feature photo: Bob Gill


Dan Ruthrauff, holding a Whimbrel. Photo: Bob Gill

DRR and gilly suit & BTCU TLT

Dan Ruthrauff, now holding a a Bristle-thighed Curlew.  Photo: Lee Tibbitts