Date of Completion


Embargo Period



extinction, conservation, environmental niche modeling, Conuropsis carolinensis, climate change

Major Advisor

Dr. Margaret A. Rubega

Associate Advisor

Dr. Robert K. Colwell

Associate Advisor

Dr. Chadwick D. Rittenhouse

Associate Advisor

Dr. Brian G. Walker

Associate Advisor

Dr. Michael R. Willig

Field of Study

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The study of the ecology of a species has traditionally ceased when that species goes extinct, despite the benefit to current and future generations of potential findings. We used the Carolina parakeet to develop a framework investigating the distributional limits, migratory habits, and extinction process as a means to recover important information. We developed a comprehensive database of every known occurrence of this iconic species. Using a combination of environmental niche modeling and extinction estimating analyses, our results demonstrate that the Carolina parakeet’s range was smaller than previously believed, the eastern and western subspecies occupied different niches with broad geographic separation, and that the western subspecies was a seasonal migrant while the eastern subspecies was not. We also found that it was likely habitat loss played a major role in their extinction. Our study highlights the importance of collecting occurrence data of extinct species and provides a framework for further investigations of other extinct species. Moreover, the recovery of lost autecological knowledge could benefit the conservation of other species currently in decline.

Parrot conservation is a pressing matter, as parrots are the most threatened order of birds. As we enter the preliminary stages of the “Sixth Mass Extinction,” brought on by habitat destruction and climate change, conservation agencies are struggling to face the challenges of a less certain future. Further, there is often a barrier between recommendations made by the scientific community and implementation by conservation practitioners.

Given these risks and disconnect between science and management practice, we identified areas of high species richness, functional diversity, and phylogenetic diversity and combined them into an Integrated Biodiversity Index (IBI) metric, for the global distribution of all parrots to assess if these areas are protected by current conservation efforts and resistant to climate change. We identified areas with high IBI that are currently resistant to climate change but under-protected; these areas are critical for current and future parrot conservation. We also identified pooly protected parrot species in areas especially sensitive to climate change. Our IBI and prioritization framework is flexible, easy to use, and applicable to any taxon or geographic region.