You are here: Home People Derek E. Lee
Derek E. Lee

Derek E. Lee

Main Content

Associate Research Professor

Mueller Laboratory
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: +1 (415) 763-0348
Lab Phone: +1 (415) 763-0348


  1. PhD, Biological Science, Dartmouth College
  2. MS, Natural Resources Management, Humboldt State University
  3. BA, Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara


I am a quantitative wildlife biologist specializing in demography, conservation biology, and population ecology. Current research investigates Masai Giraffe and other large mammal populations within a coupled human-natural landscape in Tanzania. This work examines how births, deaths, and movements of ungulates are impacted by increasingly fragmented wildlife habitat, and what conservation actions are most effective. I spent 10 years researching the impacts of climate and ocean conditions on survival, reproduction, and population growth rates of marine predators such as pinnipeds and seabirds at the South Farallon Islands, California. This work was included in a conservation and management plan for seabirds in the California Current Ecosystem. I also studied migration of Black Brant in Humboldt Bay and wildebeest in Tanzania, and I am one of the leading researchers on fire ecology of Spotted Owls.

Honors and Awards

  1. Fulbright Scholar

Research Interests

My current work is using individual-based data from the thousands of giraffes we are monitoring in Tanzania to investigate how vegetation, predators, social relationships, genetics, disease, and humans affect births, deaths, and movements of this megaherbivore. Ours is the largest and longest-running giraffe study and our results are informing basic ecology, behavior, evolution, and conservation science. We use big data tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) to process and analyze our large and ever-growing database of giraffe photographic encounters. My growing team of international collaborators is examining giraffe diet, habitat selection, social networks, parasites, population genetics, mating strategies, and more.

Selected Publications

M.A. Knüsel, D.E. Lee, B. König, M.L. Bond. 2019. "Correlates of home range sizes of giraffes, Giraffa camelopardalis." Animal Behaviour 149:143-151. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.01.017.

P. Buehler, B. Carroll, A. Bhatia, V. Gupta, D.E. Lee. 2019. "An automated program to find animals and crop photographs for individual recognition." Ecological Informatics 50:191-196. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2019.02.003.

D.E. Lee, R.W. Berger, J.R. Tietz, P. Warzybok, R.W. Bradley, A.J. Orr, R.G. Towell & J. Jahncke. 2018. "Initial growth of northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) colonies at the South Farallon, San Miguel, and Bogoslof Islands." Journal of Mammalogy, gyy131,

D.E. Lee, D.R. Cavener & M.L. Bond. 2018. "Seeing spots: quantifying mother-offspring similarity and assessing fitness consequences of coat pattern traits in a wild population of giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis)." PeerJ 6:e5690

D.E. Lee. 2018. "Evaluating Conservation Effectiveness in a Tanzanian Community Wildlife Management Area." Journal of Wildlife Management DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21549.

D.E. Lee. 2018. "Spotted Owls and forest fire: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence." Ecosphere 9:e02354 DOI:10.1002/ecs2.2354.

D.E. Lee & M.L. Bond. 2018. "Quantifying the ecological success of a community-based wildlife conservation area in Tanzania." Journal of Mammalogy DOI:10.1093/jmammal/gyy014.

C.T. Hanson, M.L. Bond & D.E. Lee. 2018. "Effects of post-fire logging on California spotted owl occupancy." Nature Conservation 24:93-105.

M.L. Bond, C.M. Bradley, C. Kiffner, T.A. Morrison & D.E. Lee. 2017. "A multi-method approach to delineate and validate migratory corridors." Landscape Ecology 32:1705-1721.

D.E. Lee & D.T. Bolger. 2017. "Movements and source-sink dynamics among subpopulations of giraffe." Population Ecology 59:157-168 DOI 10.1007/s10144-017-0580-7.

F.B. Bercovitch, P.S. Berry, A. Dagg, F. Deacon, J.B. Doherty, D.E. Lee, F. Mineur, Z. Muller, R. Ogden, R. Seymour & B. Shorrocks. 2017. "How many species of giraffe are there?" Current Biology 27:R136-R137.

D.E. Lee, M.L. Bond & D.T. Bolger. 2017. "Season of birth affects juvenile survival of giraffe." Population Ecology 59:45-54 DOI 10.1007/s10144-017-0571-8.

Z. Muller, F. Bercovitch, J. Fennessy, D. Brown, R. Brand, M. Brown, D. Bolger, K. Carter, F. Deacon, J. Doherty, S. Fennessy, A.A. Hussein, D. Lee, A. Marais, M. Strauss, A. Tutchings & T. Wube. 2016. "Giraffa camelopardalis." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T9194A51140239.

D.E. Lee, B.M. Kissui, Y.A. Kiwango & M.L. Bond. 2016."Migratory herds of wildebeest and zebra indirectly affect juvenile survival of giraffes." Ecology and Evolution 6:8402–8411 DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2561.

D.E. Lee & M.K.L. Strauss. 2016. "Giraffe demography and population ecology." Reference Module in Earth Sciences and Environmental Studies. DOI:10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.09721-9.

M.L. Bond, C. Bradley & D.E. Lee. 2016. "Foraging habitat selection by California spotted owls after fire." Journal of Wildlife Management 80:1290-1300 DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21112

M.L. Bond, M.K.L. Strauss & D.E. Lee. 2016. "Soil correlates and mortality of giraffe skin disease in northern Tanzania." Journal of Wildlife Diseases 52:953-958 DOI:10.7589/2016-02-047.

S.C. Manugian, D. Greig, D.E. Lee, B.H. Becker, S. Allen, M.S. Lowry & J.T. Harvey.  2016. "Survival probabilities and movements of harbor seals in central California." Marine Mammal Science. doi:10.1111/mms.12350

D.E. Lee, M.L. Bond, B.M. Kissui, Y.A. Kiwango & D.T. Bolger. 2016. "Spatial variation in giraffe demography: a test of 2 paradigms." Journal of Mammalogy 79:1015-1025.

D.E. Lee & M.L. Bond. 2016. "Precision, accuracy, and costs of survey methods for giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis." Journal of Mammalogy 79:940-948.

D.E. Lee & M.L. Bond. 2016. "The occurrence and prevalence of giraffe skin disease in protected areas of northern Tanzania." Journal of Wildlife Diseases 52:753-755.

D.E. Lee & M.L. Bond. 2015. "Previous year’s reproductive state affects Spotted Owl site occupancy and reproduction responses to natural and anthropogenic disturbances." The Condor 117:307-319.

D.E. Lee & M.L. Bond.  2015.  "Occupancy of California Spotted Owl sites following a large fire in the Sierra Nevada, California."  The Condor 117:228-236.

D.E. Lee, M.L. Bond, M.I. Borchert & R. Tanner.  2013. "Influence of fire and salvage logging on site occupancy of spotted owls in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California."  Journal of Wildlife Management 77:1327-1341.

M.L. Bond, D.E. Lee, R.B. Siegel & M.W. Tingley. 2013.  “Diet and home-range size of California Spotted Owl in burned forests.” Western Birds. 44:114-126.

D.E. Lee, J.T. Fennessy & M.L. Bond. 2013. "Standing tall for giraffes: Research and conservation of an overlooked African icon." The Wildlife Professional Summer 2013.

D.E. Lee, M.L. Bond & R.B. Siegel. 2012. "Dynamics of California Spotted Owl breeding-season site occupancy in burned forests."  The Condor. 114:792-802.

D.T. Bolger, T.A. Morrison, B. Vance, H. Farid & D.E. Lee. 2012.  “Development and application of a computer-assisted system for photographic capture-mark-recapture analysis.” Methods in Ecology and Evolution 3:813-822.

D.E. Lee, J. Bettaso, M.L. Bond, R.W. Bradley, J. Tietz P.M. Warzybok. 2012. “Growth, age at maturity, and age-specific survival of the arboreal salamander (Aneides lugubris) on Southeast Farallon Island, California.” Journal of Herpetology 46:64-71.

D.E. Lee, R.W. Bradley & P.M. Warzybok. 2012. “Recruitment of Cassin’s Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus): Individual age and parental age effects.” Auk 129:1-9.

D.E. Lee.  2011. “Experience and climate effects on demography of northern elephant seals.” Journal of Mammalogy 92:517-526.

J.M. Black, D.E. Lee & D.H. Ward. 2010. “Foraging home ranges of Black Brant during spring stopover at Humboldt Bay, California, USA.” Wildfowl 60:85-94.

A.C. Brown, D.E. Lee, R.W. Bradley & S. Anderson. 2010. “Dynamics of white shark predation on pinnipeds in California: effects of prey abundance.” Copeia 2010 No. 2:232-238.

M.L. Bond, D.E. Lee & R.B. Siegel. 2010. “Winter movements by California Spotted Owls in a post-fire landscape.”  Western Birds 41:174–180.

M.L. Bond, D.E. Lee, C.M. Bradley & C.T. Hansen. 2009. “Influence of pre-fire tree mortality from insects and drought on burn severity in conifer forests of the San Bernardino Mountains, California” Open Forest Science Journal 2009 No. 2:41-47.

M.L. Bond, D.E. Lee, R.B. Siegel & J.P. Ward. 2009. “Habitat use and selection by California Spotted Owls in a post-fire landscape.”  Journal of Wildlife Management 73:1116-1124.

E. Moore, S. Lyday, J. Roletto, K. Litle, J.K. Parrish, H. Nevins, J. Harvey, J. Mortenson, D. Grieg, M. Piazza, A. Hermance, D.E. Lee, D. Adams, S. Allen & S. Kell. 2009. “Entanglements of marine mammals and seabirds in central California and the north-west coast of the United States 2001-2005.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 1045-1051.

D.E. Lee & W.J. Sydeman. 2009. “North Pacific climate mediates offspring sex ratios in northern elephant seals.” Journal of Mammalogy 90:1-8.

W.D. Tietje, D.E. Lee & J.K. Vreeland. 2008.  “Survival and abundance of three mouse species in relation to density of shrubs and prescribed fire in understory of an oak woodland in California.”  Southwestern Naturalist 53:357-369.

D.E. Lee, C. Abraham, P.M. Warzybok, R.W. Bradley & W.J. Sydeman. 2008. “Common Murre (Uria aalge) age-specific survival, breeding success, and recruitment in the California Current System.” Auk 125:316-325.

D.E. Lee, N. Nur & W.J. Sydeman.  2007.  “Environmental demography of the planktivorous auklet Ptychoramphus aleuticus in the highly variable California current.” Journal of Animal Ecology 76: 337–347.

D.E. Lee, J.M. Black, J.E. Moore & J.S. Sedinger.  2007.  “Age-specific stopover ecology of Black Brant at Humboldt Bay, California.”  Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119:9-22.

D.E. Lee & W.D. Tietje.  2005.   “Dusky-footed woodrat demography and prescribed fire in a California oak woodland.”  Journal of Wildlife Management 69:1211-1220.

D.E. Lee, J.M. Black & M. Hammand.  2004.  “Grit site selection of Black Brant at Humboldt Bay, California: Particle size or calcium content?” Wilson Bulletin 116:304-313.

S.F. Railsback, B.C. Harvey, R.R. Lamberson, D.E. Lee, N.J. Claasen & S. Yoshihara.  2001.  “Population-level analysis and validation of an individual-based cutthroat trout model.”  Natural Resource Modeling 15:83-110.