Photograph of Stephen J. Dinsmore

Dr. Stephen J Dinsmore

  • Department Chair
  • Leopold Center Interim Chair
  • Professor


Contact Info

209 Science II
Social Media and Websites

Research Area

Area of Expertise

  • Avian Ecology
  • Population Biology


  • B.S., FIsheries and Wildlife Biology, Iowa State University, 1990
  • M.S., Zoology, North Carolina State University, 1994
  • Ph.D., Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, 2001


  • A Ecl/Biol 458/458L, Ornithology
  • A Ecl 516, Avian Ecology
  • NREM 305, Undergraduate Seminar (recent offerings include Wildlife and Agriculture, Wildlife Photography, and Wind Energy and Wildlife)
  • NREM 496A, Study Abroad travel course (recent offerings include Antarctica, Costa Rica, Madagascar, and Tanzania)


Dr. Dinsmore's research is centered on the intersection of avian ecology and population biology and focuses on applied issues related to specific management questions.  His research program is important to local, state, and federal natural resource management agencies because it addresses contemporary ecological problems, provides science-based solutions to these problems, and contributes to other natural resource disciplines through methodological advances.

His research program has emphasized three primary areas.  The first focuses on measures of avian reproductive success, an area where he has played an active role in developing rigorous methods for estimating nest survival. Much of this work has focused on providing estimates of nest survival and understanding how they are influenced by extrinsic factors; however, he is also interested in broader questions such as the evolution of mating systems and understanding parental investment in reproduction.  His second primary research area deals with modeling avian demography.  He is interested in management or conservation questions and use studies of avian demography (e.g., estimates of survival and population size) as tools to address these questions.  His third primary research area deals with the influence of habitat on populations.  He is interested in working with natural resource agencies to understand the implications for bird populations of alternative habitat management practices.

Recent Publications

  • Gaines, E. P., S. J. Dinsmore, and M. T. Murphy. 2020. Effects of management for productivity on adult survival of Snowy Plovers. Journal of Field Ornithology 91:130-141.
  • McGovern, P. G., S. J. Dinsmore, and J. A. Blanchong. 2020. Survival of white-tailed deer fawns in central Iowa. PLoS ONE 15(3):e0229242.
  • Vanausdall, R. A., and S. J. Dinsmore. 2020. Detection and density of breeding marsh birds in Iowa wetlands. PLoS ONE 15(1):e0227825.
  • Vanausdall, R. A., and S. J. Dinsmore. 2019. Habitat associations of migratory waterbirds using restored shallow lakes in Iowa. Waterbirds 42:135-153.
  • Dinsmore, S. J., R. A. Vanausdall, K. T. Murphy, K. E. Kinkead, and P. W. Frese. 2019. Patterns of monarch site occupancy and dynamics in Iowa. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7:169. DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00169
  • Kinkead, K. E., T. M. Harms, S. J. Dinsmore, P. W. Frese, and K. T. Murphy. 2019. Design implications for surveys to monitor monarch butterfly population trends. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7:195. DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00195
  • Pierce, A. K., S. J. Dinsmore, and M. B. Wunder. 2019. Decreased nest survival associated with low temperature in a high-elevation population of Mountain Plover. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 131:502-513.
  • Behrens, C., Z. J. Ruff, T. M. Harms, and S. J. Dinsmore. 2019. Predator density influences nest attendance of Yellow-headed Blackbirds Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus. Ibis 161:679-685.
  • Vanausdall, R. A., and S. J. Dinsmore. 2019. Impacts of shallow lake restoration on vegetation and breeding birds in Iowa. Wetlands 39:865-877.
  • Swanson, J. E., C. L. Pierce, S. J. Dinsmore, K. L. Smalling, M. W. Vandever, T. W. Stewart, and E. Muths. 2019. Factors influencing anuran wetland occupancy in an agricultural landscape. Herpetologica 75:47-56.
  • Harms, T. M., and S. J. Dinsmore. 2018. Optimizing surveys for marsh songbirds: Does timing matter? Journal of Field Ornithology 89:276-286.
  • Swanson, J. E., E. Muths, C. L. Pierce, S. J. Dinsmore, M. W. Vandever, M. L. Hladik, and K. L. Smalling. 2018. Exploring the amphibian exposome in an agricultural landscape using telemetry and passive sampling. Scientific Reports 8: 10045.
  • Kornegay, M. E., A. N. M. Wiewel, J. A. Collazo, J. F. Saracco, and S. J. Dinsmore. 2018. Improving our understanding of demographic monitoring: avian breeding productivity in a tropical dry forest. Journal of Field Ornithology 89:258-275.
  • Schilling, K. E., and S. J. Dinsmore. 2018. Monitoring the wildlife, hydrology, and water quality of drained wetlands of the Des Moines Lobe, northern Iowa: Introduction to Special Feature. Wetlands 38:207-210.
  • Murphy, K. T., and S. J. Dinsmore. 2018. Waterbird use of sheetwater wetlands in Iowa’s Prairie Pothole Region. Wetlands 38:211-219.
  • Bentzen, R., S. J. Dinsmore, J. Liebezeit, M. Robards, B. Streever, and S. Zack. 2017. Assessing development impacts on Arctic nesting birds using real and artificial nests. Polar Biology 40:1527-1536.
  • Blanchong, J. A., W. J. Reiter-Marolf, and S. J. Dinsmore. 2017. Mercury exposure in Bald Eagles admitted for rehabilitation in Iowa. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 53:393-395.
  • Reiter-Marolf, W. J., S. J. Dinsmore, and J. A. Blanchong. 2017. Environmental contaminants in Iowa’s nesting and wintering Bald Eagles. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 129:148-154.
  • Skrade, P. D. B., S. J. Dinsmore, and C. M. Vleck. 2017. Testosterone and prolactin levels in incubating Mountain Plovers. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 129:176-181.
  • Dinsmore, S. J., E. P. Gaines, S. F. Pearson, D. J. Lauten, and K. A. Castelein. 2017. Snowy Plover chick survival at the northern limit of its range. Condor 119:34-43.
  • Harms, T. M., K. T. Murphy, X. Lyu, S. S. Patterson, K. E. Kinkead, S. J. Dinsmore, and P. W. Frese. 2017. Using landscape habitat associations to prioritize areas of conservation action for terrestrial birds. PLoS ONE 12(3):e0173041.