Profile for Markus Mika

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Assistant Professor
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Specialty area(s)

Breeding ecology, life history, phylogeography, and evolution in birds

Brief biography

I am an avian biologist with a background in ecology, evolution, and conservation. I started working on a northern Utah Flammulated Owl project during the summer field seasons from 1999 to 2002 for my MS degree gathering breeding and foraging data. My doctoral research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas included travel between southern Mexico and British Columbia for five years (2003-2008) investigating the evolutionary history of bird populations, specifically small owls, using genetic markers. After finishing the Ph.D., I returned to Utah gathering longterm nesting data on Flammulated Owls ever since 2011. I worked as Science Director at HawkWatch International leading raptor conservation and citizen science efforts across the western United States. Starting in January 2015, I have been teaching in the Biology Department here at UWL.

Current courses at UWL

Fall semester: Bio 488 (mammalogy), Bio 203 lab (organismal biology), Bio 491 (capstone), irregularly Bio 105 lab (general biology lab)

Spring semester: Bio 203 lab, Bio 321 (ornithology), and Bio 491


  • B.S. Conservation Biology (Wildlife emphasis) BYU 1995
  • M.S. Zoology BYU 2003
  • Ph.D. Biological Sciences UNLV 2010


Teaching history

Associate Lecturer at UW La Crosse from January 2015 to September 2021. Graduate faculty status since March 2018. Assistant teaching professor from September 2021 to August 2023. Assistant Professor since August 2023.

Professional history

  • 2001 Independent biological consultant working on avian and mammalian conservation projects
  • 2010 Science Director at HawkWatch International
  • 2015 Associate Lecturer at UW La Crosse
  • 2021 Assistant Teaching Professor at UW La Crosse
  • 2023 Assistant Professor at UW La Crosse

Research and publishing

I conduct summer research in northern Utah and southeastern Arizona on breeding, foraging, and resource availability for Flammulated Owls (Psiloscops flammeolus) and other small forest owl species. Field research includes the trapping (mist netting & capture at nest sites), handling, and banding of birds, setting up Malaise insect traps, and evaluating of habitat characteristics and quality. In lab, students help with estimates of timing, diversity, and abundance of food resources in relation to owl nesting sites.

I also offer a variety of chances to learn curatorial skills managing the department bird collection used for ornithology and a museum exhibit in Cowley Hall and later at Prairie Springs Science Center.



Markus Mika, Aubrey Schwonek and Jason Tendler, all Biology, were interviewed by Mythili Gubbi and Siena Duncan of Fox13 Salt Lake City & Salt Lake Tribune on July 11. A local television crew and a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's largest daily newspaper, joined the field efforts covering longterm Flammulated Owl research in northern Utah in early July 2023. It featured the work of the Mika Lab, biology graduate student Jason Tendler, and the Dean's Distinguished Fellow Aubrey Schwonek on the responses of breeding owl populations to environmental and climatic changes in western desert mountain ranges. For a copy of the newspaper article, please contact

Submitted on: Aug. 31



Markus Mika, Biology, presented "Keynote Address: Nesting Biology and Migration in a Small Northern Utah Forest Owl: Lessons from 20 Years of Field Work and Community Science" at Great Salt Lake Bird Festival 2022 on May 14 in Farmington, Utah. This presentation highlighted 20 years of work studying Flammulated Owl populations not only in northern Utah, but across their distribution in search of patterns in evolution, breeding and foraging ecology, and conservation.

Submitted on: Aug. 23, 2022



Lee Baines and Markus Mika, both Biology; Linda Dickmeyer, Communication Studies; Darci Thoune, English; Naghmeh Gheidi, Exercise & Sport Science; Daniel Bretl, Microbiology; Kamilo Lara, Military Science, ROTC; Seth King, Physics; Brian Kumm-Schaley, Recreation Management & Therapeutic Recreation; and Jane Brannan, Veteran Services; received a UWL Challenge Coin at the Stole & Recognition Ceremony on Friday, May 6 in La Crosse, WI. Students presented a challenge coin to the staff or faculty member of their choosing in recognition of the impact the staff/faculty had on their academic career. Challenge Coins are an enduring military tradition. Military Commanders often give a coin to service members as a mark of camaraderie or to recognize hard work and excellence. They are intended to instill unit pride, improve esprit-de-corps, and serve as a reward for a job well done. A challenge coin signifies the person went above and beyond in their duties.

Submitted on: May 6, 2022



Markus Mika, Biology, co-authored the article "Niche dynamics suggest ecological factors influencing migration in an insectivorous owl" in Ecology and was accepted for publication by the Ecological Society of America. The study tested migration hypotheses based on ecological variables estimated from winter locations of GPS-tracked Flammulated Owls.

Submitted on: Jan. 19, 2022