I apply quantitative skills and over a decade's experience as a field biologist to understand the dynamics of communities and species across human-generated environmental gradients and provide decision support that informs our most pressing conservation problems.
My analytical skills include: meta-analysis; species occurrence and space use modeling; population and community modeling; survival analysis; and decision analysis.
Developing a Landscape Health Index for Missouri's Priority Geographies
Landscape health is a multifaceted concept that can be difficult to quantify, creating challenges for integrative conservation planning and decision making. I am developing a landscape health index in collaboration with Thomas Bonnot and the Missouri Department of Conservation rooted in structured decision making that 1) names and quantifies the key facets of landscape health, 2) summarizes landscape health as a single number based on a value function, and 3) provides a flexible, modular framework for selecting suitable data and analyses to compute the index.
The elements of the value function quantify biotic integrity, landscape condition, social condition, and threat status, which contribute to the landscape health index via a weighting system reflecting the department’s priorities. We are integrating modeling approaches across disciplines to quantify salient indicators of landscape health that include
Informing conservation decision making with full-annual-cycle population models
How should we allocate habitat improvements for migratory species when we do not know which locations and periods govern population dynamics? Conservationists strive to resolve this uncertainty to make better decisions. However, costs constrain conservation actions and are difficult to estimate, so quantifying costs may improve the quality of conservation decisions. Conservationists direct little attention to this uncertainty.
We examined three habitat allocation scenarios (breeding regions, wintering grounds, or range-wide) for a migratory duck using value-of-information analyses to compare the benefits of perfecting 1) the parameterization of a full-annual-cycle population model, 2) cost estimates, and 3) weights on different management objectives (maximize abundance and harvest while minimizing costs). I learned that investing in the breeding grounds had the highest expected value under most parameterizations, costs, and objective weights.
I am developing extensions of the approach I used to support conservation decision making for other migratory birds species and identify the conditions under which habitat allocation decision are driven by costs rather than ecological uncertainties regarding population regulation and migratory connectivity.
Effects of global shrub encroachment and agricultural intensification on wildlife community composition
Grass‐dominated biomes worldwide are experiencing shrub encroachment driven by atmospheric CO2 enrichment and land‐use change. Shrub encroachment may have important impacts on vertebrate communities because it affects cover and other critical resources. I used meta-analysis to 1) quantify the magnitude and variability of these effects across climatic gradients, continents, and taxa, and 2) assess whether shrub thinning has restored the structure of vertebrate communities.
I also quantified bird species occupancy, alpha, and beta diversity across gradients of shrub encroachment and land-use intensity in the Lowveld savanna of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and identified species traits associated with species occupancy responses these gradients . For this work, I conducted over 1400 point counts and fitted the data to Bayesian multi- and single-species occupancy models.
I also conducted several field experiments examining the effects of predator cues and shrub thinning on species occupancy dynamics and breeding propensity and am developing studies to identify proximate mechanisms driving species responses to shrub encroachment and land-use intensification.
 Stanton Jr., R. A., W. W. Boone IV, J. Soto-Shoender, R. J. Fletcher Jr., N. Blaum, and R. A. McCleery. 2018. Shrub encroachment and vertebrate diversity: a global meta-analysis. Global Ecology and Biogeography 27:368-379.
 Stanton Jr., R. A., R. J. Fletcher, Jr., M. D. Sibiya, A. Monadjem, and R. A. McCleery. Accepted. The effects of shrub encroachment on bird occupancy vary with land use in an African savanna. Animal Conservation.
Brown-headed Nuthatch space use and occurrence responses to pine woodland restoration
Pine woodlands have been degraded by fire suppression and subsequent hardwood encroachment, reducing their extent in North America by >95%. Pine woodland restoration has been widely implemented in the form of prescribed fire and woody thinning to rectify this state of affairs and restore biodiversity. I quantified the occurrence of a pine woodland species, the brown-headed nuthatch, across gradients of restoration activity and range extension, and simultaneously quantified space use within home ranges to understand the effects of restoration activities at multiple spatial scales. I found that isolated locations subject to extensive restoration efforts remained vacant whilst nuthatches avoided patches of unburned woodland within their home ranges, increasing home range sizes, indicating that nuthatches would benefit from reducing land-cover heterogeneity at both the patch and landscape scales.
 Stanton Jr., R. A., F. R. Thompson III, and D. C. Kesler. 2015. Site occupancy of brown-headed nuthatches varies with habitat restoration and range-limit context. Journal of Wildlife Management 79:917-926.
 Stanton Jr., R. A., D. C. Kesler, and F. R. Thompson, III. 2014. Resource configuration and abundance affect space use of a cooperatively breeding resident bird. The Auk 131:407-420.
 Stanton Jr., R. A., A. D. Burke, K. M. Carrlson, D. C. Kesler, J. Faaborg, and F. R. Thompson III 2018. Retention of Radio Transmitters Tail-mounted on Six Bird Species. Wildlife Society Bulletin 42:67-71.
Dynamic figures for science communication and decision support
Scientists have been communicating and teaching using static media since the inception of print. However, dynamic tools for data presentation have been developing rapidly and are now routinely used in mass media. With collaborators Jessica Laskowski and Julie Shapiro, as well as my dissertation co-advisor Bob McCleery, we wrote a peer-reviewed editorial in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment arguing that dynamic figures 1) provide myriad benefits for science communication and decision support, and 2) are increasingly within the average scientist's capabilities, so therefore should be a routine feature of scientific articles. An example from our article is below, and I will add new examples as I develop dynamic figures for my publications and other research outputs.
Stanton Jr., R. A., J. T. Shapiro, J. A. Laskowski, and R. A. McCleery. 2017. Dynamic figures should be a central feature of scientific articles. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 15:427-428.