I am a scientist who reaches across the boundary of quantitative and field ecology to answer robust and innovative scientific questions and provide valuable data to support on the ground conservation. Currently I am working as apart of the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network using structured decision makin to support decision making behind bird conservation priorities.

My doctoral work focused on the migration ecology of secretive marsh birds and how wetland management impacts them. I have a particular interest in using innovative quantitative techniques to overcome issues of detection to answer continental scale questions about migration, especially for wetland species. I sought to understand how species migrate, select habitat, and how available habitat throughout their annual cycle may limit their population growth and individual survival.

Secretive marsh birds provide a great system to ask a variety of natural history, basic science and applied questions as well as an opportunity to bridge the gap between consumptive and non consumptive wildlife enthusiasts and unite them behind wetland conservation and management actions, especially in the face of climate change. My research has frequently employed large scale collaboratively generated data sets, either from field projects, or museums, which allow us to ask more robust questions about a species then I could answer on my own.

Part of all my research is connecting what I do back to the public. I believe that the only way we can maintain our natural resources and have them in the future is to connect the public to them, and show them how valuable they are while also collecting data so we can make science based conservation decisions.

In addition, we need a diverse workforce studying and managing that environment (and I mean more then just gender diversity). I work towards raising the field of ecology’s awareness of the detrimental impact of things like unpaid internships (Fournier and Bond 2015) and unfair hiring practices which discriminate against many who want to enter science.

Effects of Wetland Management Strategies on Habitat Use of Fall Migrating Rails in Intensively Managed Wetland Complexes in Missouri

(Funded by US Fish and Wildlife Service and Missouri Department of Conservation)

My doctoral research is looking at the effects of wetland management on migratory rails during their fall migration. I’m working on state and federal wetlands across the state of Missouri. We do nocturnal spotlight surveys on ATVs to try to observe the use of these wetlands by our five study species (Sora, Virginia Rail, Yellow Rail, King Rail and Black Rail).


Often when study cryptic species new methodologies are required. This started with developing a morphometric model for the sexing of Virginia Rails, since they are unable to be distinguished in the hand.

Fournier, A.M.V., Shieldcastle, M.C., Fries, A.C. and Bump, J.K. 2013 A morphometric model to predict the sex of virginia rails The Wildlife Society Bulletin 27: 881-886 doi:10.1002/wsb.323 pdf link

Funded by the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Currently there is no way to survey for rails in the fall so we are using radio telemetry and spatial statistics to assess our survey methods and validate them so that others can use them to examine fall migration of rails.

Fournier, A.M.V., Krementz, D.G. 2017 Nocturnal Distance sampling All-Terrain Vehicle Surveys for Non-Breeding Rails The Wildlife Society Bulletin doi:10.1002/wsb.745

Funded by the Arkansas Audubon Trust

Wetland Management

Starting in 2014 we established a three year crossover experiment comparing two water level manipulation treatments. Early flooding of moist soil wetlands (flooding beginning August 1) and Late flooding (flooding beginning September 15). We are going to examine if there is any difference in response by both rails and waterfowl to these treatments. Rails are surveyed during the fall (August – October) and waterfowl during the waterfowl hunting season (October – February). Waterfowl response will be examined by looking at both use (via weekly ground counts) and hunter harvest.

Natural History

To better understand and appreciate a species within its larger ecosystem we must know its natural history. One of the joys of working with species which are poorly studied is being able to work on natural history questions, such as when do these species migrate, how do they move through their environment, and what time of year do they migrate. These are the foundation on which larger scientific and conservation focused questions can then be built.

Migratory Timing and Habitat USe

In Press Fournier, A.M.V., Mengel, D.C., Gbur, E.E., Krementz, D.G. The Timing of Autumn Sora (Porzana carolina) Migration Wilson Journal of Ornithology

Fournier, A.M.V., Mengel, D.C., Krementz, D.G. 2017 Virginia and Yellow Rail autumn migration ecology: synthesis using multiple data sets Animal Migration 4:15-22 DOI: 10.1515/ami-2017-0003 pdf link

Fournier, A.M.V., Shieldcastle, M.C., Kashmer, T., Mylecraine, K.A. 2015 Comparison of Arrival Dates of Spring Rail Migration in the Southwest Lake Erie Marshes, Ohio, USA. Waterbirds 38(3) 312-314 pdf doi:10.1675/063.038.0313


In Press Fournier, A.M.V., Krementz, D.G. Confirmation of diving and swimming behavior in the Sora (Porzana carolina) Wilson Journal of Ornithology

Heavy metal baselines

Fournier, A.M.V., Welsh, K.J., Polito, M., Emslie, S. Brasso, R. 2016 Historic mercury exposure in the Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) in coastal salt marshes of North Carolina Bulletin of Environmental Contamination & Toxicology pdf

Migratory Connectivity

Understanding the timing and connectivity of seasonal movements of individuals between habitats is essential for the effective conservation and management of migratory species. Documenting migratory connectivity is especially difficult for secretive species like rails. Rails are among the least studied birds in North America. I propose using stable isotopes, and species distribution models based on eBird data to predict the migratory connectivity of rails. Sora and Virginia are game species in North America who we hunt despite our lack of information about their population levels, trends and connectivity. Both species, along with the non-game Yellow Rail are thought to be declining, but the cause is unknown.

To date my work on migratory connectivity has shown differing patterns in connectivity among species.

Starting with the Virginia Rail, in collaboration with several partners we showed that some individuals who winter on the Gulf Coast, or migrate through Ohio have unexpected migratory patterns.

Fournier, A.M.V, Sullivan, A., Bump, J., Perkins, M., Shieldcastle, M.C., King, S. 2017 Combining citizen science derived species distribution models and stable isotope analysis reveals migratory connectivity in a secretive species, the Virginia rail (Rallus limicola) Journal of Applied Ecology (first two authors are equal) pdf

Funded by the Ecosystem Science Center at Michigan Tech Undergraduate Research Grant

I followed this up with collaborators from Bird Studies Canada, where we looked at Virginia, Yellow Rail and Sora in central Canada and across the Central Flyway in the US during autumn migration. Here we again found some unexpected patterns in Virginia Rail migration, as well as differences among the three species in their connectivity between the breeding grounds and stopover areas during autumn migration.

Fournier, A.M.V., Drake K.L., Tozer D.C. Using citizen science monitoring data in species distribution models to inform isotopic assignment of migratory connectivity in wetland birds Journal of Avian Biology doi:10.1111/jav.01273 pdf link Preprint data: Data Dryad Digital Repository.

Funded by The Garden Club of America 201

Current work seeks to further examine questions about Virginia Rail migration by using pin point GPS units, results hopefully coming soon.

Unpaid Labor and Science

Many advertised field-technician positions sound worthwhile, but have no or very low pay. Although these can be valuable experiences, not paying technicians for their work undermines their professionalism and the professionalism of science as a whole. These unpaid technician positions are available to only the privileged few; and the positions exclude minorities, parents, and other groups who cannot afford to work unpaid. By creating such positions, we prevent everyone, regardless of background, from having a chance to get the field experience they need, and this limits the diversity of voices in wildlife ecology and conservation. We recognize finances are often tight, and there is a long tradition of unpaid work, but these are not valid rationalizations for continuing this practice.

Fournier, A.M.V., Bond, A.L. Volunteer field staff are bad for wildlife ecology The Wildlife Society Bulletin 39: 819-821 doi:10.1002/wsb.603 pdf link

To further examine these ideas I am working with Dr. Alex Bond and two economists in the United Kingdom to examine our assumptions about unpaid work in the sciences, including who takes unpaid work, and how it influences their career. We hope to provide the evidence for further discussion of the role of unpaid work in science and any influence it might have on reinforcing other structure of priveledge and exclusion which also exist along a career path into the sciences.