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University of Connecticut Center for Environmental Sciences & Engineering

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Michael R. Willig, Ph.D.

Director and Professor


Center for Environmental Sciences & Engineering


University of Connecticut

Michael R. Willig has an internationally renowned career in environmental sciences, working in Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico and the US, with an emphasis on application of quantitative and statistical techniques to understand the ecology and conservation of coupled human and natural systems.  Recently funded projects have a focus on the ecology of infectious diseases, long-term ecological research on disturbance, and conservation and ecology of mammals.

Dr. Willig has more than 30 years of experience as a research scientist, educator, and administrator at universities and federal agencies.  Prior to arriving at the University of Connecticut, he was Director of the Division of Environmental Biology (2004-06) as well as Director of the Ecology Program (2000-2002) at the National Science Foundation.  As a university administrator, he was the Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies (1994-96) and Chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences (1995-97) at Texas Tech University.

Recent activities have focused on integrating research and education with respect to long-term and broad scale environmental research, multidisciplinary investigation, cyberinfrastructure for the biological sciences, sustainable management of biodiversity, and environmental forecasting.

Dr. Willig received his B.S. (summa cum laude) in 1974 and his Ph.D. in 1981, both from the University of Pittsburgh in biology.  He has published over 180 scientific articles in peer reviewed journals, and is the author or editor of seven books or monographs.  In addition, he has received substantial grant support, most of it for multidisciplinary research from such agencies as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of Energy. 

He has received a number of fellowships for his research including support from the Brazilian National Academy of Sciences, the Mellon Foundation, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities.  In addition, he was a sabbatical fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.  He received the Southeastern Biologists Faculty Research Award in 1983, the George Miksch Sutton Award in Conservation Research in 1995, the Barnie E. Rushing, Jr. Faculty Distinguished Research Award in 1998, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Award in 2011. He was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2011.  Dr. Willig has served on a number of national panels including those at the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, and Conservation International.

Dr. Willig has taught a variety of courses in Ecology and Biostatistics at the graduate and undergraduate level, and has been the major advisor of 23 M.S., 11 Ph.D., and 13 post-doctoral fellows.  In addition, he has considerable experience as an editor for a number of international journals such as Biotropica, Mastozoologia Neotropical, Journal of Mammalogy, and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.