Christopher M. Heckscher, MS, PhD
Professor of Environmental Science & Ecology
College of Agriculture, Science & Technology
checkscher [at] desu.edu
Ph.D., Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware
M.S., Entomology and Applied Ecology, University of Delaware
B.S., Wildlife Biology, Minor: Zoology, Colorado State University
I address ecosystem-level questions via the study of birds and insects. Behavioral ecology and the preservation of the structure and function of threatened ecosystems - in the face of global urbanization and climate change - are among my primary interests. Organisms can tell us a great amount about how our ecological systems are functioning. Avian blood plasma analysis can inform about refueling potential, trophic interactions, habitat quality, and the effects of environmental pollutants on ecosystem function and these have been topics of research for my students and me at DSU. However, the ecological constraints on the reproductive performance and migration of a single-brooded long-distance migratory songbird (Catharus fuscescens) is my primary research focus at DSU and is largely accomplished via breeding season monitoring and remote tracking technology (GPS loggers, geolocators). My research at DSU has gained international attention and has proven to be pioneering in this field of study. All of my research efforts have an underlying purpose: to inform wise land-management decisions for federal, state, and non-profit conservation organizations. Our future depends directly on how well we conserve and manage our ecological resources and ameliorating the biodiversity crisis may be humanity’s most dire challenge.
Research summary: (1) Catharus thrushes including breeding and non-breeding ecology and conservation, (2) avian migration systems, (3) effects of sea-level rise and alien plants on migratory birds and other natural resources, (4) biogeography and conservation of rare and uncommon Lampryidae (Coleoptera), Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), Lepidoptera, and Unionidae (freshwater mussels), (5) field inventory of remote and unusual natural areas.
- American Ornithological Society
- Wilson Ornithological Society
- Association of Field Ornithologists
- American Society of Naturalists
- Cooper Ornithological Society
- Delmarva Ornithological Society
- Coalition for Natural Stream Valleys
- Heckscher, C. M., J. E. Lloyd and M. A. Branham. 2022. Redescription of Photuris Pensylvanica (DeGeer) (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) with the designation of a neotype. The Coleopterists Bulletin https://doi.org/10.1649/0010-065X-76.4.503
- Fallon, C. E., A. C. Walker, S. Lewis, J. Cicero, L. Faust, C. M. Heckscher, C. X. Perez-Hernandez, B. Pfeiffer and S. Jepsen. 2021. Evaluating firefly extinction risk: Initial red list assessments for North America. PLOS ONE 16(11): e0259379. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259379
- Heckscher, C. M., D. Mendez, K. A. Hobson, A. A. Aispuro, N. Kleponis, A. H. Kneidel, M. L. Mancuso and K. J. Kardynal. 2021. Miniature GPS data loggers reveal habitat affiliations and movement of Veeries (Catharus fuscescens) during their first non-transient period in South America. Ornitologia Neotropical 32: 1-9.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2021. Four new species of North American fireflies from isolated peatlands with reference to species determination of Photuris Dejean (Coleoptera:Lampyridae). Northeastern Naturalist 28:277-285.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2021. Use of simple graded signals in the long-distance vocal communication of a forest thrush (Catharus fuscescens). Bioacoustics https://doi.org/10.1080/09524622.2021.1888316
- Heckscher, C. M., L. R. Bevier, A. Poole, W. Moskoff, P. Pyle and M. A. Patten. 2020. Veery (Catharus fuscescens), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.veeery.01
- Heckscher, C. M. 2018. The seasonal pattern of Veery calls and song in relation to reproductive contexts. Northeastern Naturalist 25:291-307.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2018. Summering White-throated Sparrows in Delaware. Delmarva Ornithologist 49:8-11.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2018. A Nearctic-Neotropical Migratory Songbird’s Nesting Phenology and Clutch Size are Predictors of Accumulated Cyclone Energy. Scientific Reports 8: 9899. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28302-3
- Heckscher, C. M., M. Gutierrez & A. H. Kneidel. 2017. Reproductive outcomes determine the timing of arrival and settlement of a single-brooded Nearctic-Neotropical migrant songbird (Catharus fuscescens) in South America. The Auk:Ornithological Advances 134:842-856.
- Ungvari-Martin, J., Heckscher, C. M., & K. A. Hobson. 2016. Inter-annual site fidelity and breeding origins of Gray-cheeked Thrushes in white sand forests of the Peruvian Amazon. Journal of Field Ornithology 87:55–64. doi.org/10.1111/jofo.12133
- Lester, L. A., Ramirez, M. G., Kneidel, A. H., & C. M. Heckscher. 2016. Use of a Florida gulf coast barrier island by spring trans-gulf migrants and the projected effects of sea level rise on habitat availability. PLoS ONE 11(3), 1–13. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148975
- Halley M.R., Heckscher C.M., & V. Kalavacharla. 2016 Multi-Generational Kinship, Multiple Mating, and Flexible Modes of Parental Care in a Breeding Population of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens), a Trans-Hemispheric Migratory Songbird. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157051. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157051
- Heckscher, C. M. 2015. An isolated occurrence of Pyractomena ecostata (LeConte) (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) in the Mid-Atlantic with new records from New Jersey and Delaware. Northeastern Naturalist 22:N35 – N38.
- Heckscher, C. M., M. R. Halley & P. M. Stampul. 2015. Intratropical migration of a Nearctic-Neotropical migratory songbird (Catharus fuscescens) in South America with implications for migration theory. Journal of Tropical Ecology 31-285 – 289.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2015. Northern range extension of Psorthaspis sanguinea (Smith) (Hymentoptera:Pompilidae) and a record of Psorthaspis mariae (Cresson) from the Delmarva Peninsula. Northeastern Naturalist 21:N53 – N55.
- Heckscher, C. M., S. M. Taylor & C. C. Sun. 2014. Veery (Catharus fuscescens) nest architecture and the use of alien plant parts. American Midland Naturalist 171:157 – 164.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2014. Late-season Patrolling Behavior and Flash Patterns of Female Photuris lucicrescens Barber (Coleoptera : Lampyridae). Northeastern Naturalist 21: 72–75.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2013. Photuris mysticalampas (Coleoptera:Lampyridae): A new firefly from peatland floodplain forests of the Delmarva Peninsula. Entomological News 123:93-100.
- Halley, M. R. & C. M. Heckscher. 2013. A study of interspecific parental care by a Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) at the nest of a Veery (Catharus fuscescens). Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125:823-828.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2012. Delaware Photuris Fireflies ( Coleoptera : Lampyridae ): New State Records , Conservation Status , and Habitat Associations 1, (302), 498–505. http://doi.org/10.3157/021.121.0513
- Halley, M. R. & C. M. Heckscher. 2012. Multiple male feeders at nests of the Veery. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 124:396-399.
- Heckscher, C. M., S. M. Taylor, J. W. Fox, & V. Afanasyev. 2011. Veery (Catharus fuscescens) wintering locations, migratory connectivity, and a revision of its winter range using geolocator technology. Auk 128:531-542.
- Heckscher, C. M. 2010. Delaware Photuris fireflies (Coleoptera:Lampyridae): New state records, conservation status, and habitat associations. Entomological News 121:498-505.
- Heckscher, C. M. & C. R. Bartlett. 2004. Rediscovery and Habitat Associations of Photuris Bethaniensis McDermott (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 58: 349-53.
Honors & Awards
- 2016 Annual Conservation Award, Delmarva Ornithological Society
- 2006 Outstanding Employee Award, Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
- 2006 Governor’s Team Excellence Award, Delaware Office of the Governor
- 2003 Employee Recognition Award, Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
- 1992 Certificate of Merit – For Exceptional Performance on a Complex Research Project, USDA
- Advanced Ecosystems
- Environmental Law & Policy
- Advanced Environmental Law & Policy
- Habitat Management & Restoration
- Ecological Land Use Planning
- Delaware Natural Areas Advisory Council: Appointed by Governor Jack Markell and Confirmed by the Delaware Senate, 2014
- Delaware Natural Areas Advisory Council: Re-appointed by Governor John Carney and Confirmed by the Delaware Senate, 2018
- Delaware Native Species Commission: Appointed by Governor John Carney, 2018
- Neotropical Naturalist, Co-Editor
- Biodiversity Data Journal, Subject Editor
- Northeastern Naturalist, Board of Editors
- Delmarva Ornithologist, Assistant Editor
- My research was featured in the June 2023 issue of Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/illuminating-science-behin…
- My research was featured in the June 2022 issue of Popular Science: https://www.popsci.com/environment/new-firefly-species-wetlands/
- My lab’s research was featured on the Netflix Docuseries Connected.
- My lab’s research was featured on the cover of two separate internationally circulated highly competitive scientific journals in 2017 (The Auk: Ornithological Advances) and 2018 (Northeastern Naturalist).