Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Christopher J Whelan
Title: Avian Ecologist
Mailing address:
c/o Department of Biological Sciences M/C 066
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL 60607
Office address:
Address mailcode:
Office room:
Location: UIC
Phone: 312-355-0990
Fax: 312-413-2435

Avian Ecologist

I am an evolutionary ecologist who works with birds and other taxa. My research interests include ecology of human-dominated landscapes (including the urban environment), ecosystem services, plant-animal interactions, and interplay of digestive physiology and foraging ecology. A common theme that unites my research interests is consumer-resource theory. As consumers, birds play many functional roles in the ecosystems they inhabit, including pest control and seed dispersal. As resources themselves, bird communities are often strongly impacted by predation, particularly nest predation. A central goal is building fundamental understanding of the evolutionary ecology of birds in ways that can promote sound land and resource management while enhancing bird species conservation.
My work, over many years, has investigated a wide variety of phenomena, including foraging ecology of New World warblers, seeking insights into their resource exploitation systems, habitat selection, and community organization; predation by insectivorous birds on the invasive gypsy moth caterpillar (with Richard Holmes); phenological causes and consequences of fruit consumption and seed dispersal by migratory songbirds (with Mary Willson); avian pest control of forest leaf-chewing insects (with Robert Marquis). More recently I teamed with Illinois Natural History Survey colleagues to examine potential ecological effects of rail transportation corridors and infrastructure in the upper Midwest. I strive to cultivate collaborations that promote integration of scientific approaches and disciplines
I am an evolutionary ecologist with a primary focus on birds, and their functional, ecological roles in ecosystems. By their function, birds help sculpt the landscapes they inhabit and deliver many critical ecosystem services.
Over my career, I have worked in the following major areas:
Foraging ecology, habitat selection, and community structure; interactions among birds and arthropod prey; evolutionary ecology of bird-plant interactions; integrating digestive physiology and foraging ecology; evolutionary game theory; functional roles of birds in ecosystems and ecosystem services
Message to students:

Please email me if interested in graduate research.

Cramer Fellow, Dartmouth College, 1982-1987
Professional affiliations:
Research Affiliate, Field Museum of Natural History
Graduate Faculty Scholar, Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University
Selected publications:
Flower, C.E., L.C. Long, K.S. Knight, J. Rebbeck, J.S. Brown, M.A. Gonzalez-Meler, and C.J.  Whelan. 2014. Native bark-foraging birds preferentially forage in infected ash (Fraxinus spp.) and prove effective predators of the invasive emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire). Forest Ecology and Management 313:300–306.

Oyugi, J.O., J.S. Brown, C.J. Whelan. 2012. Foraging behavior and coexistence of two sunbird species in a Kenyan woodland. Biotropica. 44:262–269.

Emerson, S.E., J.S. Brown,, C.J. Whelan, and K.A. Schmidt. 2012. Scale dependent neighborhood effects:shared doom and associational refuge. Oecologia 168:659-670.
Whelan, C.J., D.G. Wenny, and R.J. Marquis. 2010. Policy implications of ecosystem services provided by birds. Synesis 1:11-20.

Whelan, C.J., D.G. Wenny, and R.J. Marquis. 2008. Ecosystem services provided by birds. Pages 25-60, in R.S. Ostfeld and W.H. Schlesinger, editors, The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology 2008, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Whelan. C. J. and K. A. Schmidt. 2007. Food acquisition, processing, and digestion. in Stephens, D. W., J. S. Brown, and R. Ydenberg, editors, Foraging, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Whelan, C.J. and J.S. Brown. 2005. Optimal foraging under gut constraints: reconciling two schools of thought. Oikos 110: 481-496.

Whelan, C. J., J.S. Brown, and G.G. Maina. 2003. Search biases, frequency-dependent predation, and species coexistence. Evolutionary Ecology Research 5:329-343.

Molano-Flores, B., M.A. Feist, and C.J. Whelan. 2003. Seed germination, seedling survivorship, and host preference for Agalinis auriculata (Scrophulariaceae), an Illinois threatened species. Natural Areas Journal 23: 152-157.

Whelan, C.J. 2001. Foliage structure influences the foraging of insectivorous forest birds: an experimental analysis. Ecology 82:219-231.

Whelan, C.J., J.S. Brown, K.A. Schmidt, B.B. Steele, and M.F. Willson. 2000. Linking consumer-resource theory with digestive physiology: application to diet shifts. Evolutionary Ecology Research 2:911-934.
INHS Publink:
Program affiliates:
Adjunct Faculty, Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago

Professional society involvement and activities:

American Association for the Advancement of Science


PhD, Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, 1987

BS, Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, 1982

Lab name: Lab research: Lab publications: Lab current projects:

Illinois Natural History Survey

1816 South Oak Street, MC 652
Champaign, IL 61820

Terms of use. Email the Web Administrator with questions or comments.

© 2020 University of Illinois Board of Trustees. All rights reserved.
For permissions information, contact the Illinois Natural History Survey.

Staff Intranet