• Chris Belcher

Meet UTSA’s Expert on Urban Wildlife

Updated: 4 days ago

One of the classes University of Texas at San Antonio’s Jennifer Smith teaches is Urban Wildlife Ecology. The class focuses on teaching future wildlife biologist about not only wildlife, but the human dimension urban areas introduce to wildlife management and conservation.

Smith is a graduate of Cardiff University in Wales and the University of Birmingham, UK.

Smith also leads the Smith Lab at UTSA. Smith’s lab site bio describes her as a Wildlife Ecologist who is interested in the human dimension of wildlife.


The lab has recently “begun to explore the human dimensions of wildlife to understand how peoples’ knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes influence, and are influenced by conservation behaviors and nature engagement,” according to its Current Research page.


One way that scientist have begun to do this is by partnering with citizen scientist to expand their information network and explore urban ecologies more thoroughly. This is can be seen in the work of experts such as Richard Rachman who talked about exploring urban ecology using citizen scientist during an online presentation for the California State University-Northridge Institute for Sustainability.


Smith and the Smith Lab also work with citizen scientist in several of their research projects. Several of the lab’s projects look for input from citizen scientist. The San Antonio Urban Owls Project is one of those. The project uses iNaturalist to track sighting and hearings of all owls in the San Antonio area. iNaturalist allows citizen scientist to report sighting of different species through both it’s website as well as it’s mobile phone application.


Another project that uses iNaturalist is the South Texas Horned Lizard Project, a project whose goal is to “track observations of Texas Horned Lizard’s through community science.” The Texas Horned Lizard is a threatened species. It’s also the official Texas state reptile.

Smith’s co-authored works also fit with the lab’s work. In 2017 she co-authored a paper “Garden Bird Feeding: Insights and Prospects from a North-South Comparison of This Global Urban Phenomenon,” about supplemental feeding of birds. One of the projects the Smith Lab is working on deals with supplemental feeding of San Antonio’s urban birds.


The paper states, “By proposing that scientists work in collaboration with the public providing food to birds, we pose key research questions that need to be answered urgently and suggest accompanying experimental approaches to do so. These approaches are essential if we are to improve our understanding of how bird feeding shapes the behavior, ecology, movements, and community structure of urban birds.”


The San Antonio Bird Feeding Project led by Amanda Lamberson is another one of the projects the Smith Lab is using citizen scientist for information gathering. Its research is assessing the effect of supplemental feeding on urban birds in the San Antonio area.

San Antonio resident who are interested in Smith and the Smith Lab’s work should follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Jen_A_Smith1 and https://twitter.com/BirdLab_UTSA. If you’re interested in how you can contribute to the research you can also email smithlabutsa@gmail.com.

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