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Dr. David Millican

PHD FELLOW  ALUMNI  |   Global Change Center

VT Alumni May 2023, Biological Sciences

Advisor: Dr. Jeff Walters


David successfully defended his thesis in February of 2023. David joined the Walter's Lab in 2014 and while at Virginia Tech his research investigated the community ecology of a cavity-nesting community in central Namibia. Based outside of Otjiwarongo, Namibia, David seeked to identify the major components of this threatened community, including the types of cavities available to cavity-nesters, the nest site preferences of different species, and the direct and indirect interactions between community members. David worked to identify how a shortage of nest cavities might impact each species individually in order to help develop conservation strategies that can overcome threats facing this community.

David earned a B.S. in Biology from Davidson College, where he was a student research fellow in the Herpetology and Ornithology Labs. David’s interests in ecology were first perked by snakes and salamanders, but during a semester in Northeastern Australia he became captivated by avian behavior and pivoted his research interests.

When David returned to Davidson in the Spring of 2010, he immediately joined the Ornithology lab run by Dr. Mark Stanback, taking part in research investigating the breeding ecology of cavity-nesting passerines in the Piedmont of North Carolina, including Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and Carolina Chickadees.

As a postgraduate, David spent three years working within multiple areas of avian research, including environmental consulting on windfarms in Pennsylvania, non-profit work with Hawkwatch International, academic research teams in Oregon, Illinois, Canada, and Argentina, and the USGS in Hawaii. David’s research interests include avian ecology and conservation, natural and sexual selection, and human dimensions of wildlife.

David enjoyed his time in the IGC program, and especially liked the IGC's emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and translating research into policy. As a Fellow in the IGC program David used the IGC network to team up with Professor Ashley Dayer, an expert in Human Dimensions of Wildlife, to conduct a systematic assessment of the potential for a flagship species to emerge from Namibia’s cavity-nesting community. David believes that it is the responsibility of scientists to do more than just collect impartial data and design conservation strategies. It is our responsibility to make our findings accessible to the public, and to ensure that empirical facts trump theoretical conjecture in shaping the direction of environmental management.

In the News

David Millican studies impact of climate change and deforestation in Namibia

Postcards from the field: Dave Millican in Namibia

Assessing the potential of the Monteiro’s Hornbill (Tockus monteiri) as a flagship species in Namibian conservation

Last updated May 2023.