Debra Shier

Assistant Adjunct Professor

office:  Life Science Building 4318

Recent Courses

EE BIOL 151B - Field Tropical Ecology
ENVIRON 180B - Practicum in Environmental Science


B.S., Biopsychology, University of California, Santa Barbara 1992
M.S., Animal Behavior, University of California, Davis 2001
M.A., Biology: Emphasis In Ecology And Systematics, San Francisco State University 2003
Ph.D., Animal Behavior: Emphasis Wildlife Conservation, University of California, Davis 2004

Research Interests

Dr. Debra Shier is the Brown Endowed Associate Director of Recovery Ecology. She runs a growing program focused on threatened and endangered mammals and frogs in the Southwest. For over 20 years she has been studying the ways in which an understanding of animal behavior and ecology can be applied to conservation strategies such as reintroductions and translocations. In general, her research has focused on using basic theory to create effective and efficient relocation methods by encouraging settlement, dampening stress, and increasing fitness with an emphasis on behavioral competency. Her research collaboration with our Genetics division includes landscape level genetics to inform reserve management practices and species recovery. More recently, her research has expanded into local restoration and examining anthropogenic effects on wildlife behavior, fitness and persistence.

On campus at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Dr. Shier currently runs a captive breeding/reintroduction program for the endangered pacific pocket mouse that focuses on survival skill development, sensory ecology, mate choice, foraging, antipredator behavior, stress and genetic management. Off campus, she has domestic projects throughout San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties which include research on reintroduction and translocation biology, effects of light and sound on nocturnal species, effects of stress in relocation and range-wide genetics. She is also a part of an international collaboration on Tasmanian devil reintroduction. Her model species include: Stephens? and San Bernardino kangaroo rats, California ground squirrel, Pacific and Los Angeles pocket mice, Black-tailed prairie dogs, Ringtails, Tasmanian devils, and Mountain Yellow-legged frog. In her capacity as an adjunct faculty member at UCLA she also studies, Poison dart frogs and Neotropical harvestmen.

Dr. Shier received a B.S. degree in biopsychology from University of California, Santa Barbara. She received a M.S. degree in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and Systematics from San Francisco State University. She received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Animal Behavior with an emphasis in Wildlife Conservation from University of California, Davis.

Selected Publications

Harvey, Brigit D.; Vanni, Kaylee N.; Shier, Debra M and Grether, Greg, "Experimental test of the mechanism underlying sexual segregation at communal roosts of harvestmen (Prionostemma spp.)", Ethology, 123 (8): 516-525 (2017) .

Grueber, Catherine E.; Reid-Wainscoat, Elizabeth E.; Fox, Samantha, Katherine Belov, Debra M. Shier, Carolyn J. Hogg & David Pemberton, "Increasing generations in captivity is associated with increased vulnerability of Tasmanian devils to vehicle strike following release to the wild", Scientific Reports, 7 : 2161- (2017) .

Shier, Debra M., "Manipulating animal behavior to ensure reintroduction success", In: Conservation Behavior: Applying Behavioral Ecology to Wildlife Conservation and Management, Berger-Tal, Oded Saltz, David(Eds.), Cambridge Cambridge University Press 7 : 275-304 (2016) .

Hennessy, S. McCullough; Deutschman, D. H.; Shier, D. M. and Swaisgood, R.R., "Experimental habitat restoration for conserved species using ecosystem engineers and vegetation management", Animal Conservation, Berger-Tal, Oded Saltz, David(Eds.), 19 (6): 506-514 (2016) .

Debra M. Shier, " Developing a standard for evaluating reintroduction success using IUCN Red List indices", Animal Conservation, Berger-Tal, Oded Saltz, David(Eds.), 18 (5): 411-412 (2015) .

Grether, Gregory F.; Levi, Abrahm; Antaky, Carmen and Shier, Debra M., "Communal roosting sites are potential ecological traps: experimental evidence in a Neotropical harvestman", Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Berger-Tal, Oded Saltz, David(Eds.), 68 (10): 1629-1638 (2014) .

Moehrenschlager, A. Shier, D. M. Moorhouse, T. P. Stanley Price, M. R., "Righting past wrongs and ensuring the future: challenges and opportunities for effective reintroductions amidst a biodiversity crisis", Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2, D. W. Macdonald K. J. Willis(Eds.), Oxford John Wiley & Sons 68 (10): 405-429 (2013) .

Shier, D. M.; Lea, A. J.; Owen, M. A., "Beyond masking: Endangered Stephen's kangaroo rats respond to traffic noise with footdrumming", Biological Conservation, D. W. Macdonald K. J. Willis(Eds.), 150 (1): 53-58 (2012) .

Shier, Debra M.; Swaisgood, Ronald R., "Fitness Costs of Neighborhood Disruption in Translocations of a Solitary Mammal", Conservation Biology, D. W. Macdonald K. J. Willis(Eds.), 26 (1): 116-123 (2012) .

Shier, D.M., "Prairie dogs", In: Exotic pet behavior, Valerie Tynes, DVM(Eds.), Wiley & Sons 26 (1): 148-156 (2010) .