Eric L. Walters

Associate Professor

Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University





Principal Investigator

email link Eric L. Walters, PhD - Grand Poobah

Eric grew up in Canada and obtained his BSc in marine biology at the University of Victoria. He initially worked with marine mammals (training seals, sealions, and killer whales [including Tilikum - the whale featured in the documentary Blackfish]; studying transient and resident killer whales; and conducting necropsies as part of a stranding program). After several years of consulting and work as a naturalist, he decided to return to the University of Victoria for graduate school. It was at this point that he switched from marine mammals to birds and eventually earned his MSc with Ted Miller, studying red-naped sapsuckers. Following a couple of summers working on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona as a crew leader for Tom Martin, Eric entered a PhD program at Florida State University with Frances James, where he examined the community of cavity users associated with endangered red-cockaded woopecker cavities. For his postdoctoral research, he held appointments with Doug Bolger at Dartmouth College and with Walt Koenig at UC Berkeley and Cornell University. He obtained a faculty position at Old Dominion University in the fall of 2011.

Postdoctoral Associates

email link Victoria Garcia, PhD

Vicki received a Master’s in Wildlife Science from the University of Arizona, where she examined dispersal in Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia). She later went on to earn a PhD in Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech, where she focused on Red-cockaded Woodpecker demography and conservation. Her research interests are focused on how individuals and populations respond to environmental conditions, and how those responses impact fitness. Under this broad framework, she is interested in evolutionary ecology, animal behavior, demography and life history theory, cooperative breeding, dispersal, and conservation. In her postdoctoral research, she is examining the impacts of senescence in three species of cooperative breeders to determine how senescence may differ depending on social, environmental, and genetic factors. These species are Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus), Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens), and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (Picoides borealis).

Garcia, V., and C. J. Conway. 2009. Use of video probe does not affect Burrowing Owl reproductive parameters or return rates. Journal of Wildlife Management 73:154-157.

Garcia, V., and C. J. Conway. 2009. What constitutes a nesting attempt? Variation in criteria causes bias and hinders comparisons across studies. Auk 126:31-40.

Conway, C. J., V. Garcia, M. D. Smith, and K. Hughes. 2008. Factors affecting detection of Burrowing Owl nests during standardized surveys. Journal of Wildlife Management 72:688-696.

Conway, C. J., V. Garcia, M. D. Smith, L. A. Ellis, and J. Whitney. 2006. Comparative demography of Burrowing Owls within agricultural and urban landscapes in southeastern Washington. Journal of Field Ornithology 77:280-290.

Conway, C. J., and V. Garcia. 2005. Effects of radiotransmitters on natal recruitment of Burrowing Owls. Journal of Wildlife Management 69:404-408.

email link Sahas Barve, PhD

Sahas grew up in Mumbai, India and received a BS in Zoology from Mumbai University and an MS in Wildlife Sciences from the Wildlife Institute of India. After working on large mammals, king cobras, and sky-island endemic birds, he attended Cornell University for his PhD. His dissertation work involved climbing up and down mountains in the Himalayas to study the influence of physiology, interspecific competition, and habitats on the elevational distribution of birds. His postdoctoral work in the Walters Lab examines the movement ecology and life-history evolution of acorn woodpeckers.

Barve S., Mathur V., Dhondt A., Ishtiaq F. and Z. Cheviron 2016. Life-history characteristics in physiological strategies to cope with hypoxia in Himalayan birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society-B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2201

Barve S. and F.A. La Sorte 2016. Fruiting season length drives the global distribution of female-only parental care in frugivorous passerines.PLoS ONE 11(5): e0154871. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154871

Dixit S., Joshi V. and S. Barve 2016. Bird diversity of the Amrutganga Valley, Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India with an emphasis on the elevational distribution of species. Checklist. DOI://

Barve S. and A. A. Dhondt 2015. A Yellow-browed tit (Sylviparus modestus) nest from Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand, India. Indian Birds (3&4) 110-111.

Barve S.* and N. Mason *. 2015. Interspecic competition aects evolutionary links between cavity nesting, migration and clutch size in Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae). Ibis. 157(2) 299-311 (* Denotes equal contributions)

Graduate Students

Natasha Hagemeyer, PhD Candidate (started August 2012)

Dominion Scholar

Natasha is a native of Severna Park, Maryland. She obtained her BS from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2011. Natasha is studying coalition dispersal in cooperatively breeding acorn woodpeckers.

Hagemeyer, N.D.G. 2016. Sex obsessed or just sociable? Non-copulatory displays in the hamerkop (Scopus umbretta). Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14(7):397-398.

Hagemeyer, N.D.G. and E.L. Walters. 2014. Review: Rare Birds of North America. Journal of Field Ornithology 85:436-438.

Hagemeyer, N.D.G. and M.L. Bond. 2014. First observations of insectivory in the Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus). Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126:611-613.

“RESTORE Episode 11: Black-backed Woodpeckers and Fire.” U.S.D.A. Forest Service Region 5, 2013. Aug 2013. Video. “Forests Born of Fire.” Directed by Monica Bond. Narrated by Natasha D. G. Hagemeyer. Wild Nature Institute, Feb 2013. Video.

Hagemeyer, N.D., R.J. Sturge, K.E. Omland and J.J. Price. 2012. Incomplete song divergence between recently diverged taxa: syllable sharing in Orchard and Fuertes’ orioles. Journal of Field Ornithology 83:362-371.

email link Andrew Arnold, MS Candidate (started August 2013)

Andrew is a native of Excel, Alabama. He obtained his BS in Wildlife Science from Auburn University in 2012. Andrew's research is focused on evaluating what factors determine stopover habitat use by migrant birds in forested coastal regions of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

Akcay, C., K.L. Hambury, J.A. Arnold, A.M. Nevins and J.L. Dickinson. 2014. Song sharing with neighbours and relatives in a cooperatively breeding songbird. Animal Behaviour 92:55-62.

Heller, E.L., Arnold, J.A. and E.L. Walters. 2015. Migrant bird research at Old Dominion University. Virginia Birds 11:4-5.

Akcay, C., J.A. Arnold, K.L. Hambury, and J.L. Dickinson. 2016. Age-based discrimination of rival males in western bluebirds. Animal Cognition. In Press.

email link Nick Flanders, PhD Candidate (started August 2014)

Nick grew up in Newport News, Virginia where his interest in birding began. He obtained a B.S. in Biology from Old Dominion University in 2011 and an M.S. degree from NC State in 2014. His graduate thesis involved using occupancy models to estimate temporal and spatial variation in seabird distributions. His PhD work examines the role of birds in the dispersal and distribution of mistletoe.

Flanders, N.P., B. Gardner, K.J. Winiarski, P.W.C. Paton, T. Allison, and A.F. O'Connell. 2015. Key seabird areas in southern New England identified using a community occupancy model. Marine Ecology Progress Series 533: 277-290.

email link Spencer Schubert, PhD Candidate (started August 2015)

Dominion Scholar

Spencer grew up in Illinois and received his B.S. from St. Olaf College in 2013. Spencer is studying avian seed dispersal with the tropical wet forests of the Dominican Republic. You can read more about Spencer at his website.

email link Chance Hines, MS Candidate (started August 2016)

Chance received a BS in Wildlife Ecology and Management from Texas A&M in 2007. His career to date consists of research, management, and compliance positions throughout North and Central America. Most recently he worked with prairie songbirds, Island Scrub Jays, Wood Thrush, Sharp-tailed Sparrows, and Southwestern Willow Flycatchers. He is currently evaluating the role of Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) as a keystone resource within migrant songbird habitat on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Hackberry fruits are used by migrants when refueling but the tree also appears to increase fruiting species richness in areas where it occurs. Chance is examining how a mutualism with gall-forming psyllids provides key resources to migrants.

Other Personnel

email link Annie Sabo, BS - Laboratory Manager

A native of Ohio, Annie graduated from ODU in 2015. She was awarded the Provost's Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher. She now manages all of the lab logistics and keeps Eric organized.

Sabo, A.M., N.D.G. Hagemeyer, A.S. Lahey, and E.L. Walters. 2016. Evaluating factors that influence avian window strikes. PeerJ 4:e2170; DOI 10.7717/peerj.2170

Hana Londoño Oikawa (Universidad CES, Medellín, Colombia) - REU Intern

Hana is an undergraduate at the Universidad CES in Medellín, Colombia where her undergraduate thesis is an examination of the factors that best explain the distribution of Acorn Woodpeckers in the Valle de Aburrá, Colombia. Her dream was to visit Hastings, the holy grail of Acorn Woodpecker research, to learn from the masters. And, now she is here!

Paula Saravia (Universidad CES, Medellín, Colombia) - REU Intern

Paula recently graduated from the Universidad CES in Medellín, Colombia where, for her undergraduate thesis, she studied the effect of pine plantations on bird and mammal communities. She is hoping to gain valuable experience working on the woodpecker project as she contemplates graduate school.

Toni Dotterer (Old Dominion University) - REU Intern

Toni is a graduate of Old Dominion University and is a GIS guru with a love for all things botanical. During her undergrad, she conducted a study of longleaf pine and its recovery in Virginia, the northernmost distribution of its range. After taking Eric's Field Ornithology class, she fell in love with birds and is now working on our acorn woodpecker project while she decides on a topic for graduate school.

Former Lab Members

Erin Heller, MS (2012-2015)

Erin is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She obtained her BS from Virginia Tech in 2011. Erin's MS research examined the role of urbanization on bird-tick parasitism. She currently is a PhD student at Virginia Tech, studying life history of Red Knots.

Heller, E.L. 2015. The effects of urbanization on tick parasitism rates in birds of southeastern Virginia. M.S. Thesis. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia.

Heller, E.L., Arnold, J.A. and E.L. Walters. 2015. Migrant bird research at Old Dominion University. Virginia Birds 11:4-5.

Heller, E.L., Wright, C.L., Nadolny, R.M., Hynes, W.L., Gaff, H.D., and E.L. Walters. 2016. New records of Ixodes affinis parasitizing avian hosts in southeastern Virginia. Journal of Medical Entomology. DOI 10.1093/jme/tjv175

Heller, E.L., K.C.R. Kerr, Dahlan, N.F., Dove, C.J., and E.L. Walters. 2016. Overcoming challenges to morphological and molecular identification of Empidonax flycatchers: a case study from the first occurrence record of Dusky Flycatcher in Virginia. Journal of Field Ornithology. DOI 10.1111/jofo.12132

Anna Brownson-Prinz, MS (2008-2015)

Anna is a native of Holland, Michigan. She obtained her BS from Hope College in 2009. She began work on the acorn woodpecker project in 2008 and has been involved in all aspects of the study. She began graduate school at Old Dominion in 2011 and graduated in spring of 2015.

Brownson, A.C. 2015. The behavioral causes of reproductive skew in cooperatively polygynandrous acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus). M.S. Thesis. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia.


Mario Pesendorfer, PhD - Cornell University

Mario is a postdoc collaborating on the woodpecker project. He is examining the role of oak canopy at both local and regional scales as predictors of acorn woodpecker occupancy over the past four decades.

Michelle Jusino, PhD - University of Wisconsin, Madison

Michelle is a postdoc collaborating on the woodpecker project by examining convergent multi-species symbioses between woodpeckers and fungi.

Hannah Dugdale, D.Phil - University of Leeds

Hannah is collaborating on the woodpecker project by examining the quantitative genetics of behaviour as it relates to cooperative breeding and lifetime fitness.

Walt Koenig, PhD - Cornell University

Walt began studying acorn woodpeckers at Hastings in 1974. He is largely considered one of the present-day grandfathers of behavioral ecology.

Joey Haydock, PhD - Gonzaga University

Joey began studying acorn woodpeckers in 1992. He has been the mastermind behind all of our recent genetic analyses for the 6,000+ individuals for which we have DNA.


Eric L. Walters © 2018 All rights reserved.