Graduate theses

A masters or doctoral thesis is evidence of 2 achievements: the further education of the author of the thesis and a new contribution to human understanding.

The California condor has been the subject, or a significant aspect, of a number of graduate theses.

The oldest condor-related thesis that I am aware of is Carl Koford’s groundbreaking study. This research, the product of years of field and library work, was a major event in the history of the condor-human relationship. Koford’s thesis was later published by the National Audubon Society and by Dover.
01 Koford 1953

In this post I consider Koford’s 1950 thesis and 19 more that have been published since (these 20 are not all of the condor-related theses that have been completed). The most recent of this set of theses was completed in 2012; half are dated 1990 or later. These theses were developed at institutions across the USA. Only half are from California schools and there is even one from the UK.

To better understand the research that these 20 theses represent, I have roughly categorized them by subject matter. Some theses fall in more than one of my categories.

In a few cases, the California condor itself was not studied for the thesis research. A related, surrogate species was studied but the work was clearly done with the goal of conserving the California condor. Surrogate-based studies are one of my categories.

In the text below I refer to the theses by their authors’ last names. Bibliographic details about the 20 theses are at the end of this post.

Of the 20 theses, two describe field research on truly wild birds (Koford, Wallace). Two concern fossilized birds (Carr, Fox-Dobbs). Others focused on captive (DeWald, Nemeth, Utt) or reintroduced birds (Beres, Nemeth, Utt, West).

The history of the relationship between California condors and humans was a substantial part of 2 theses (Duthie, Koford). One thesis considered the symbolism of the condor (Kane). Another examined the condor within the context of environmentalism and public policy (Tantillo).

The behavior of condors was the subject of 5 theses (Arnold, DeWald, Koford, Ozier, West). Analysis of condor habitat was at least a major part of 3 (Koford, Scepan, Studer). Past, present, and future population changes were considered in 2 (Beres, Koford).

Environmental threats to condors from human activities were explored in 3 theses (Koford, Studer, Valencia). A third of the theses considered the management of condors – including management practices, tools, and effectiveness (Allen, Duthie, Hendrickson, Nemeth, Payne, Scepan, Utt).

Surrogate species were the subject of 5 theses (Arnold, Hendrickson, Ozier, Valencia, Wallace). Surrogates were the Andean condor and turkey vulture.

Some of the authors of the 20 theses continued to work with California condors after completion of their graduate work. Carl Koford was an advocate for the condor throughout his life. Michael Wallace continues to lead condor conservation efforts with the San Diego Zoo. Other thesis authors have built upon their condor studies to make important contributions in other areas.

The 20 theses considered above and other theses concerning the California condor represent important contributions towards the continued survival of the California condor.

Allen, Shanae Domenica. An integer programming approach to selecting individuals for transfer in pedigreed populations. M.S. North Carolina State University. 2009.

Arnold, Martha Jane. A radio-telemetry study of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in south central California. M.S. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. 1986.

Beres, Diane Lynn. A methodological study of modeling for California condors. Ph.D. University of Minnesota. 2000.

Carr, Gail Elaine Speaker. An early Pleistocene avifauna from Inglis, Florida. Ph.D. University of Florida. 1981.

DeWald, Jeannine M. Social dominance in captive California condors (Gymnogyps californianus). M.S. San Diego State University. 1986.

Duthie, Jo Ann. The California condor: history, distribution and preservation policy. [M.A.] San Diego State College. 1972.

Fox-Dobbs, Kena L. The foraging ecology of Late Quaternary mammalian and avian carnivores: a stable isotope approach. Ph.D. University of California, Santa Cruz. 2006.

Hendrickson, Sher L. Natural history, population decline and mitochondrial genetics of cathartids (Aves: Ciconiiformes) with special focus on the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus). Ph.D. University of Wisconsin. 2003.

Kane, Karla. Thunderbird: the California condor as a symbol for the state. M.A. University of Wales. 2010.

Koford, C B. The natural history of the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley. 1950.

Koford, Carl B. The California condor. National Audubon Society. 1953.

Koford, Carl B. The California condor. Dover. 1966.

Nemeth, Lynne. Grand experiments: a review of five endangered species reintroductions in the US. M.A. Prescott College. 2012.

Ozier, James C. Social behavior of Andean condors at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. M.S. University of Georgia. 1986.

Payne, Jack McGillen. The application of avian reflectance spectra to wildlife management and theoretical ecology. Ph.D. Utah State University. 1983.

Scepan, Joseph. Geographic information system techniques for managing California condor habitat. M.A. University of California, Santa Barbara. 1989.

Studer, Cynthia Dawn. Effects of Kern County cattle ranching on California condor habitat. M.A. Michigan State University. 1983.

Tantillo, James Anthony. Anti-modern environmental ideology in environmental science policy disputes: the case of captive breeding of endangered species. M.S. Cornell University. 1994.

Utt, Amy C. Evaluating captive-breeding techniques and reintroduction success of the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). Ph.D. Loma Linda University. 2010.

Valencia, Ramon M. An assessment of the toxicological effects of ingested copper and tungsten-tin-composite (TTC) bullets on the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), using the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) as a surrogate. M.S. California State University, Long Beach. 2003.

Wallace, Michael Phillip. Ecological studies of Andean condors in Peru. Ph.D. University of Wisconsin. 1985.

West, Christopher J. Factors influencing vigilance while feeding in reintroduced California condors Gymnogyps californianus. M.Sc. Humboldt State University. 2009.