Robert F. Rockwell

Research Associate, Vertebrate Zoology, Ornithology

Adjunct Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School



  • Queen’s University (Kingston), PhD, 1975
  • Wright State University, MSc, 1971
  • Wright State University, BSc, 1969 

Research Interests

Dr. Rockwell is a population biologist and ecologist working primarily on the dynamics of interacting species in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. While the main theme of his 51-year-long field project has centered on lesser snow geese, work has expanded in the last 20 years to include graminoid primary producers, halophytic plants (representing alternate stable states in degraded habitat), various non-goose herbivores (e.g. caribou) and predators including arctic foxes, wolves and both grizzly and, especially, polar bears. One focus of his current research is the impact of global climate change on the interactions of species in these three trophic levels. The other involves the genetic analyses of non-invasively sampled tissues to evaluate abundance, survival, population structure and landscape use of apex predators such as polar bears. He and his students and colleagues integrate field approaches, laboratory assessments and state-of-the-art analytical and modeling techniques. They are all members of the Hudson Bay Project, an international team dedicated to research in remote, coastal arctic tundra.


Division of Vertebrate Zoology


Richard Gilder Graduate School

Robert Rockwell

Hudson Bay Project



Barnas, A., C.J. Felege, R.F. Rockwell, and S.N. Ellis-Felege. 2018. A pilot(less) study on the use of an unmanned aircraft system for studying polar bears. Polar Biology 41(5): 1055–1062.

Barnas, A., B.J. Darby, G.S. Vandeberg, R.F. Rockwell, and S.N. Ellis-Felege. 2019. A comparison of drone imagery and ground-based methods for estimating the extent of habitat destruction by lesser snow geese (Anser caerulescens caerulescens) in La Pérouse Bay. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0217049. [DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217049]

Barnas, A., R. Newman, C.J. Felege, M.P. Corcoran, S.D. Hervey, T.J .Stechmann, R.F. Rockwell, and S.N. Ellis-Felege. 2018. Evaluating behavioral response of nesting lesser snow geese to unmanned aircraft surveys. Ecology and Evolution 8: 1328–1338.

Iles, D.T., R.F. Rockwell, and D.N. Koons. 2019. Shifting vital rate correlations alter predicted population responses to increasingly variable environments.American Naturalist 193(3): E57–E64.

Gormezano, LJ and RF Rockwell.  2013.  Dietary composition and spatial patterns of polar bear foraging on land in western Hudson Bay.  BMC Ecology 13:51. doi:10.1186/1472-6785-13-51.

Gormezano, LJ and RF Rockwell.  2013.  What to eat now?  Shifts in terrestrial diet in western Hudson Bay.  Ecology and Evolution 3:3509–3523. doi:10.1002/ece3.740.

Iles, D.T., R.F. Rockwell, P. Matulonis, G.J. Robertson, K.F. Abraham, C. Davies, and D.N. Koons. 2013. The effects of predators, alternative prey, and climate on common eider nesting success. Journal of Animal Ecology 82:683-693.

Koons, DN, RF Rockwell, and LM Aubry.  2013.  Effects of exploitation on an overabundant species: the lesser snow goose predicament. Journal of Animal Ecology (online early) doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12133.

Peterson, SL, RF Rockwell, CR Witte and DN Koons. 2013. The legacy of destructive snow goose foraging on supratidal marsh habitat in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 45:575-583.

Aubry, L.M., R.F. Rockwell, E.G. Cooch, R.W. Brook, C.P. Mulder, and D.N. Koons. 2013. Climate, phenology, and habitat degradation: drivers of gosling body condition and juvenile survival in lesser snow geese. Global Change Biology 19:149–160.

Iles, DT, SL Peterson, LJ Gormezano, DN Koons and RF Rockwell.  2013.  Terrestrial predation by polar bears: not just a wild goose chase.  Polar Biology 36:1373-1379.

Weckel, M and RF Rockwell.  2013.  Can controlled bow hunts reduce overabundant white-tailed deer populations in suburban ecosystems?  Ecological Modelling 250:143-154.

Abraham, K. F., R. L. Jefferies, R. T. Alisauskas, and R. F. Rockwell. 2012. Northern wetland ecosystems and their response to high densities of lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese. Pages 9-45. In Leafloor, J. O., T. J. Moser, and B. D. J. Batt (editors). Evaluation of special management measures for midcontinent lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese. Arctic Goose Joint Venture Special Publication. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. and Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario. 

Rockwell, RF, K Dufour, E Reed and DN Koons. 2012. Modeling the Mid-continent Population of Lesser Snow Geese. Pages 178-201.  In Leafloor, J. O., T. J. Moser, and B. D. J. Batt (editors). Evaluation of special management measures for midcontinent lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese. Arctic Goose Joint Venture Special Publication. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. and Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario.

Dufour, K, RT Alisauskas, RF Rockwell and E Reed. 2012. Temporal variation in survival and productivity of mid-continent lesser snow geese and its relation to population reduction efforts. Pages 95-131. In Leafloor, J. O., T. J. Moser, and B. D. J. Batt (editors). Evaluation of special management measures for midcontinent lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese. Arctic Goose Joint Venture Special Publication. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. and Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario.

Nagy, C, K Bardwell, RF Rockwell, M Weckel and R Christie. 2012. Validation of a citizen science-based model of site occupancy for Eastern Screech Owls with systematic data in suburban New York Connecticut. Northeast Naturalist 19:143-158.

Winiarski, KJ, SR MacWilliams and RF Rockwell.  2012.  Rapid environmental degradation in a subarctic ecosystem influences resource use of a keystone avian herbivore.  Journal of Animal Ecology 81:1132–1142.

French, HT and RF Rockwell.  2011.  Climate change and avian population ecology in Europe.  Nature Education Knowledge 2(10)1.  

Nagy, C. and RF Rockwell. 2011. Identification of individual Eastern Screech-Owls (Megascops asio) via vocalization analysis. Bioacoustics 21:127-140.

Weckel, ME, RF Rockwell and F Secret.  2011.  A modification of Jacobson et al.s' (1997) individual branch-antlered male method for censusing white-tailed deer.  Wildlife Society Bulletin 35:445-451..

Weckel, ME, RF Rockwell and A Wincorn.  2011.  The sustainability of controlled archery programs: the motivation and satisfaction of suburban hunters.  Wildlife Society Bulletin 35:330-337.

Belanger, DH, SL Perkins and RF Rockwell.  2011.  Inference of population structure and patterns of gene flow in canine heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis).  Journal of Parasitology 97:602-609.

Rockwell, RF, LJ Gormezano and DN Koons.  2011.  Trophic matches and mismatches: Can polar bears reduce the abundance of nesting snow geese in western Hudson Bay?  Oikos 120:696-709.

Alisauskas, RT, RF Rockwell, KW Dufour, EG Cooch, G Zimmermen, KL Drake, JO Leafloor, TJ Moser and E Reed.  2011.  Effect of population reduction efforts on harvest, survival and population growth of Midcontinent lesser snow geese.  Wildlife Monographs 179:1-42.

Hobson, K, C Sharp, RL Jefferies, RF Rockwell and KF Abraham.  2011.  Nutrient allocation strategies to eggs by lesser snow geese at a sub-Arctic colony.  Auk 128:156-165.

Mockrin, M, RF Rockwell, KH Redford and NS Kueler.  2011.  Landscape features determine the distribution and sustainability of ungulate hunting in northern Congo.  Conservation Biology 25:514-525.

Aubry, LM, RF Rockwell and DN Koons.  2010.  Metapopulation dynamics of mid-continent Lesser Snow Geese: Implications for management.  Human Wildlife Conflicts 4:11-32.

Rockwell, RF and LJ Gormezano.  2009.  The early bear gets the goose: climate change, polar bears and lesser snow geese in western Hudson Bay.  Polar Biology 32:539-547.

Rockwell, RF, KF Abraham, CR Witte, P Matulonis, M Usai, D Larsen, F Cooke, D Pollak and RL Jefferies.  2009. The Birds of Wapusk National Park.  Wapusk National Park of Canada Occasional Paper 1:1-47. Parks Canada, Winnipeg.

Gilliland, SG, HG Gilchrist, RF Rockwell, GJ Robertson, J-P Savard, F Merkel and A Mosbech. 2009.  Evaluating the sustainability of harvest among northern Common Eiders in Greenland and Canada. Wildlife Biology 15:24-36.

Teaching Experience

Faculty Appointments

  • Professor, The City College of CUNY, 1976-present
  • Professor, The Graduate and University Center of CUNY, 1978-present
  • Adjunct Faculty, Columbia University, 1999-present

Courses Taught

  • Biostatistics Biomathematics
  • Population genetics
  • Population ecology
  • Simulation modeling
  • Molecular ecology
  • Ecological genetics

Graduate Advisees

15 advised since 1995; recent students include:

  • Diana Belanger, CUNY
  • Linda Gormezano, CUNY
  • Chris Nagy, CUNY
  • Kathleen Uvino, CUNY
  • Mark Weckel, CUNY
  • Helen French, CUNY

Graduate Committees

More than 75 committees since 1995; recent committees include:

  • Miranda Mockrin, Columbia University
  • Sergios Kolokotronas, Columbia University
  • Frank Fontanella, CUNY
  • Anna Phillips, CUNY
  • Alejandro Oceguera-Figueroa, CUNY
  • David Koons, Auburn University