J.D. Willson was a post-doc in the Hopkins Lab in 2010- 2012. He worked closely with Christine Bergeron and Brian Todd, and also mentored two undergraduate students in the FLeDGE program. J.D.’s work focused primarily on evaluating the impacts of environmental mercury pollution on amphibians and semi-aquatic reptiles. He developed population models to synthesize experimentally derived effects of Hg on amphibians and predict population and landscape level effects.

J.D. received his B.S. in biology from Davidson College where he studied the effects of land use and urbanization on stream salamander populations. He went on to pursue a doctorate in Ecology under Whit Gibbons at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL). His dissertation research used multidisciplinary techniques (intensive field population monitoring, stable isotope food web studies, laboratory feeding experiments, and theoretical population modeling) to examine aquatic snake population dynamics and evaluate the critical roles that snakes play as predators within wetland ecosystems. During this time he also got involved in research on the ecology, impacts, and potential for range expansion of invasive Burmese Pythons in the Florida Everglades.

J.D. is now on the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas where he continues to do basic and applied research on amphibians, aquatic reptiles, and invasive snakes. As an applied ecologist, he is broadly interested in how organisms respond to changing environments within the context of relevant anthropogenic threats including habitat alteration, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

Willson Lab Website


Representative Publications:

Willson, J.D. and C.T. Winne. 2016. The predatory role of aquatic snakes in isolated wetlands: A case study in evaluating functional roles of secretive species. Journal of Zoology, London 298:266-273.

Kern, M. M., Guzy, J. C., Lovich, J. E., Gibbons, J. W., & Dorcas, M. E. 2015. Relationships of maternal body size and morphology with egg and clutch size in the diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin (Testudines: Emydidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 177:295-304.

DeGregorio, B.†, S.J. Chiavacci, P.J. Weatherhead, J.D. Willson, T.J. Benson, and J.H. Sperry. 2014. Snake predation on North American bird nests: culprits, patterns, and future directions. Journal of Avian Biology 45:001-009.

DeGregorio, B.†, J.D. Willson, M.E. Dorcas and J.W Gibbons. 2014. Commercial value of amphibians produced from an isolated wetland. American Midland Naturalist 172:200-204.

Guzy, J.C., Price, S.J., and Dorcas, M.E. 2014. Using multiple methods to assess detection probabilities of riparian-zone anurans: implications for monitoring. Wildlife Research 41:243-257.

Witczak, L.R, Guzy, J.C., Price, S.J., and Dorcas, M.E. 2014. Temporal and spatial variation in survivorship of diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin). Chelonian Conservation and Biology 13:146-151.

Durso, A.M. and J.D. Willson. 2013. Habitat influences diet overlap in aquatic snake assemblages. Journal of Zoology, London 291:185-193.

Underwood, E.B., S. Bowers, J.C. Guzy, J.E. Lovich, C.A. TAylor, J.W. Gibbons, and M.E. Dorcas. 2013. Sexual dimorphism and feeding ecology of Diamondbacked terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin). Herpetologica 69:397-404.

Hopkins, B.C., S.Y. Chin, J.D. Willson, and W.A. Hopkins. 2013. Like mother, like offspring: maternal and offspring wound healing correlate in snakes. Journal of Experimental Biology 216:2545-2547.

Willson, J.D., and W.A. Hopkins. 2013. Beyond the wetland: evaluating the effects of anthropogenic stressors on source-sink dynamics in pond-breeding amphibians. Conservation Biology 27:595-604.

Hopkins, B.C., W.A. Hopkins, D.K. Jones†, and J.D. Willson. 2013. Mercury exposure is associated with negative effects on turtle reproduction. Environmental Science and Technology 47:2416-2422.

Drewett, D.V.V.,J.D. Willson, D. A. Cristol, S.Y. Chin, and W.A. Hopkins. 2013. Inter- and intra-specific variation in mercury bioaccumulation by snakes inhabiting a contaminated river floodplain. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry 32:1178-1186.

Chin, S.Y., J.D. Willson, D. A. Cristol, D.V.V. Drewett, and W.A. Hopkins. 2013. High levels of maternally transferred mercury do not affect reproductive output or embryonic survival of northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon). Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry 32:619-626.

Chin, S.Y., J.D. Willson, D. A. Cristol, D.V.V. Drewett*, and W.A. Hopkins. 2013. Altered behavior of neonatal northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon) exposed to maternally transferred mercury. Environmental Pollution 176:144-150.

Willson, J.D., W.A. Hopkins, C.M. Bergeron, and B.D. Todd. 2012. Making leaps in amphibian ecotoxicology: Translating individual-level effects of environmental contaminants to population viability. Ecological Applications 22:1791-1802.

Reed, R.N., J.D. Willson, M.E. Dorcas, and G.H. Rodda. 2012. Ecological correlates of invasion impact for Burmese pythons in Florida. Integrative Zoology 7:254-270.

Dorcas, M.E., J.D. Willson, R.N. Reed, R.W. Snow, M.R. Rochford, M.A. Miller, W.E. Meshaka, Jr., P.T. Andreadis, F.J. Mazzotti, C.M. Romagosa, and K.M. Hart. 2012. Severe mammal declines coincide with python proliferation in Everglades National Park. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – USA 109:2418-2422. (Cover Aritcle)

Todd, B. D., J.D. Willson, C. M. Bergeron, and W. A. Hopkins. 2012. Do effects of mercury in larval amphibians persist after metamorphosis? Ecotoxicology 21:87-95.

Willson, J.D. and W. A. Hopkins. 2011. Prey morphology constrains the feeding ecology of an aquatic generalist predator. Ecology 92:744-754.

Willson, J. D., C. T. Winne, and B. T. Todd. 2011. Ecological and methodological factors affecting detectability and population estimation in elusive species. Journal of Wildlife Management 75:36-45.