Aaron Wirsing

  • Professor
    • : 206-543-1585
  • Visit Aaron's website
  • Aaron J. Wirsing

    • Professor

    Research areas

    A.B., Biology, Bowdoin College
    M.S., Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho
    Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University

    Aaron Wirsing is currently not accepting graduate students



    • ESRM 350 | Wildlife Biology and Conservation (5) - Autumn
    • ESRM 450 | Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (5) - Winter

    Current Sponsored Projects

    • A Study of Snow Leopard Ecology in Kyrgyzstan
      Panthera’s Kyrgyzstan snow leopard program has two overarching, interrelated goals. First, the program seeks to improve knowledge and understanding of snow leopards and the ecological role they play in the high mountain ecosystems of Central Asia. Second, guided by the organization’s foundational mission, the program works to put the lessons gained through research and monitoring efforts to more effectively conserve and protect snow leopards and the ecosystems they inhabit.
    • Assessing Wolf-Cougar Interactions and Impacts in Washington
      Thanks to ongoing collaboration with Dr. Brian Kertson (Carnivore Research Scientist) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), this study will combine past data on cougars with present data on cougars and wolves. Thus, we will investigate how wolf presence affects the ecology of other predators in the Pacific Northwest, particularly the cougar, which served as the apex predator during wolf absence.
    • Does Anti-predator Behavior Modify Indirect Effects of Top Predators?
      we propose to test whether recolonizing gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the Methow Valley of north-central Washington State, USA exert contrasting indirect effects on plants by inducing divergent winter habitat shifts by two sympatric herbivores – mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) – with different escape tactics.
    • Interactions between wolves and cougars in NE Washington
      The goal of this project is to undertake groundbreaking research to understand the interactions between wolves and cougars. We will do this by analyzing the activity and behavior of cougars in areas with and without wolves.
    • Using accelerometers to understand the hunting success of cougars in a human-dominated landscape
      Building on an ongoing study of interactions between this top carnivore and prey, we will use sudden acceleration recorded by the AAS to detect predatory attacks by collared cougars, and associated GPS points as the basis for on-site investigations to determine which attacks were successful. We will then be able to model attack success for cougars as a function of landscape cover, with special reference to major sources of anthropogenic activity such as roads and silviculture.

    Selected publications

    Ripple, W. J., C. Wolf, T. M. Newsome, M. Hoffmann, A. J. Wirsing, and D. J. McCauley. 2017Extinction risk is most acute for the world’s largest and smallest vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114: 10678-10683.  Link

    Newsome, T. C., A. C. Greenville, D. Ćirović, C. R. Dickman, C. N. Johnson, M. Krofel, M. Letnic, W. J. Ripple, E. G. Ritchie, S. Stoyanov, and A. J. Wirsing. 2017. Top predators constrain mesopredator distributions. Nature Communications 8: 15469 doi: 10.1038/ncomms15469  Link

    Wirsing, A. J., M. R. Heithaus, and A. Frid. 2014. Cross-fertilizing aquatic and terrestrial research to understand predator risk effects. WIREs Water 2014. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1039  Link

    Ripple, W. J., J. A. Estes, R. L. Beschta, C. C. Wilmers, E. G. Ritchie, M. Hebblewhite, J. Berger, B. Elmhagen, M. Letnic, M. P. Nelson, O. J. Schmitz, D. W. Smith, A. D. Wallach, and A. J. Wirsing. 2014. Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores. Science 343: 1241484(2014).  Link

    Wirsing, A. J., K. E. Cameron, and M. R. Heithaus. 2010. Spatial responses to predators vary with prey escape mode.  Animal Behaviour 79: 531-537.  Link