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262 Nash, Oregon State University, Corvallis OR 97331


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REPORT a fox sighting

Did you see a swift fox?

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Become a fox finder

Teachers - sign up your science class to get involved. 

Click below to learn more.

operation fox finder

For now all of this is just a place holder; you can click on the boxes all you want but they aren't going to do anything. In time, this will be where people can come to report swift fox sightings within our study area, or to join our team of fox finders (that is, folks who conduct swift fox surveys).

Donelle (Doni) Schwalm

Wildlife Biologist

Pikas in Peril

About Me

Welcome to my website! This is a work in progress so bear with me as I put everything together. 09/10/17

I hold a Research Associate Faculty Position in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. I conduct research on terrestrial species, mostly mammals (but birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants also make an appearance on my resume). My overarching goal is to inform wildlife conservation practices, particulary in the context of endangered and threatened species. I use my training in wildlife ecology, landscape ecology, population genetics and conservation biology to achieve this goal. I've done a lot of different things over the course of my career, however my strongest skills are in the realms of functional connectivity (in particular, landscape genetics), species distribution modelling, population modelling, and climate change. I am also well versed in translocation and reintroduction for the purpose of species restoration. Finally, I am a hands-on scientist - I prefer research which has a solid field component to it, as I think that the best way to develop meaningful questions and identify critical conservation needs associated with any given system is to spend time working in it.


In the future, I would like to apply this unique skill set to the development of strategies for facilitating movement and adaption in wildlife populations facing the pressures of anthropogenic climate change and habitat fragmentation. I am particularly interested in the potential application of conservation genomics to these challenges, and have several proposals submitted or in preparation to begin to address this exciting line of inquiry.

Photo by Kylie Paul

Connect the Fox:

Facilitating linkages between isolated swift fox populations in the Northern Great Plains

Society is defined not only by what it creates, but what it refuses to destroy.
-John Sawhill

change threaten the persistence of the species - at least, in parts of its range. Pikas are believed to have disappeared from areas in the Great Basin due to climate change impacts.


However, it is unclear if these losses translate unilateraly to pika populations in other parts of the species' range. The Pikas in Peril project studies climate change vulnerability of pika populations in eight National Parks and Monuments: Crater Lake, Craters of the Moon, Grand Teton, Great Sand Dunes, Lassen Volcanic, Lava Beds, Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone. These parks were chosen because they capture much of the variation in temperature, precipitation, elevation and habitat substrate in which pikas occur.


The goals of this three-phase project are as follows:

  • Identify pika occurrence patterns and the factors which shape species distribution in each of the 8 parks

  • Measure gene flow and model connectivity in pika populations, with special emphasis on the impact of landscape on individual movement

  • Predict climate change effects on the future distribution, connectivity and vulnerability of pika populations in each park


I joined the Pikas in Peril project as a postdoctoral scholar in the 

Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University in

June 2012. Learn more about my role in the project from the

Pikas in Peril tab.


Also, don't forget to take a peek at the Pikas in Peril project at its

official website here. You can find park-specific briefs, pictures, and

video from the different parks, as well as more information on the

research specific to this project.

American pika feces

A pile of pika poop - the souce of DNA used for genetic analysis during the Pikas in Peril project.

Swift fox (Vulpes velox) are currently extirpated from the majority of their historic distribution in the Northern Great Plains. We (a diverse group of state agencies, academics, tribes and non-profit organizations) are taking preliminary steps to build a foundation for swift fox restoration in this area. Our final objective is to establish a connected network of swift fox populations which links foxes in northern Montana with those in South Dakota and Wyoming. This involves 1) surveys to determine their current distribution, 2) telemetry studies to understand movement within and between current populations as well as the factors which inhibit this movement, 3) networking with public and private landowners to build community support for the work and, finally, 4) strategic translocation of swift fox to release sites of critical importance in terms of contribution to connectivity and potential for long-term population viability. 


The first phase of this work, Operation Fox Finder, has begun. In partnership with a team of state and federal  agencies, tribal entities, and NGOs, we completed 573 individual survey locations in Montana and North Dakota in 2015 and 531 survey locations in South Dakota in 2016. Our next step in this process is identifying ways to partner with private landowners, teachers and students to build a team of citizen scientists who are directly involved with conducting swift fox surveys in these three states. We are currently seeking funding and collaborators for this piece of the puzzle - so stay tuned! 


In the meantime, check out the Operation Fox Finder tab for some cool pictures and project progress to date in the work we are conducting in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas.

The American pika (Ochotona princeps) is considered a sentinel species for the potential impacts of climate change on wildlife. They have a low thermal threshold, which means that exposure to temperatures just a few degrees above their body temperature results in mortality in a very short time. Pikas escape warm day time temperatures by sheltering in the cool refugia offered by rocky talus slopes, boulder fields, lava tubes, and even mining tailing piles. In addition, because they remain active all winter, they rely on snow accumulation to provide a buffer from extreme winter temperatures. As a result, the warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns associated with climate

American pika caching food
Doni Schwalm swift fox release in Texas
Doni Schwalm feral hog
Donelle Schwalm red-cockaded woodpeccker nest check
Donelle Schwalm prairie dog capture
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