Biology & Marine Biology

Faculty & Staff

Steven D. Emslie, Professor

Dr. Emslie with penguinsPh.D., Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 1987
M.S., Biology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, 1982
M.A., Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 1977
B.A., Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 1975
Dobo Hall 206 | (910) 962-3357 | 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403-5915 |

My research interests are interdisciplinary and focus on avian ecology and paleoecology, especially on the fossil record of birds in the Plio/Pleistocene and the evolution and extinction of birds in relation to climate change. For the past 15 years I have been studying the paleoecology of penguins in Antarctica with excavations of abandoned penguin colonies to recover bones and prey remains. These remains are providing information on the occupation history and diet of penguins that can be correlated with past population movements and episodes of climate change in this region. Most recently, this research has been expanded to investigate carbon and oxygen isotope records preserved in penguin eggshell from fossil and recent penguin colonies.

I also study living seabirds and other coastal species. Initial research concentrated on the foraging ecology of Royal Terns that breed along the coast of North Carolina. This research has resulted in four Master's theses and four publications. In addition, I have one Ph.D. student who is investigating the foraging ecology and diving behavior of tropical boobies in Peru and the Galapagos Islands in collaboration with Dr. David Anderson (Wake Forest Univ.). Most recently, I have initiated research on the winter ecology of three species of coastal sparrows, Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows and Seaside Sparrow, that co-inhabit the salt marshes here in winter. This study involves regular banding of these birds at three marsh sites and the collection of feathers and blood for stable isotope analysis. New students in my lab will become involved in these or other applicable projects. Projects completed or ongoing with previous and current graduate students, respectively, can be found at:

Zavalaga, C., S. Benvenuti, L. Dall'Antonia, and S. D. Emslie. In Press. Diving behavior of Blue-footed Boobies (Sula nebouxii) in northern Perú in relation to sex, body size, and prey type. Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Emslie, S. D. 2007. Fossil passerines from the early Pliocene of Kansas and the evolution of songbirds in North America. Auk 124: 85-95.

Emslie, S. D., L. Coats, and K. Licht. 2007. A 45000-year record of Adélie Penguins and climate change in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Geology 35: 61-64.

Brasso, Rebecka and S. Emslie. 2006. Two new late Pleistocene avifaunas from New Mexico. Condor 108: 721-730.

Aygen, Deniz and S. D. Emslie. 2006. Royal Tern (Sterna maxima) chick diet at Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. Waterbirds 29: 395-400.

Emslie, S. D. and E. J. Woehler. 2005. A 9000-year record of Adélie Penguin occupation and diet in the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science 17: 56-66.

Emslie, S. D. 2004. The ecology and paleohistory of pygoscelid penguins in the Antarctic Peninsula. Pp. 222-232, in Antarctic Challenges: Historical and Current Perspectives on Otto Nordenskjöld's Antarctic Expedition 1901-1903 (A. Elzinga, T. Nordin, D.Turner, and U. Wråkberg, Eds.). Royal Society of Arts and Sciences, Göteborg, Sweden.

Emslie, S. D. 2004. The early and middle Pleistocene avifauna from Porcupine Cave. Pp. 127-140, in: Biodiversity Response to Climate Change in the Middle Pleistocene (A. D. Barnosky, Ed.). Univ. of California Press, Berkeley.

Wambach, E. and S. D. Emslie. 2003. Seasonal and annual variation in the diet of breeding, known-age Royal Terns in North Carolina. Wilson Bulletin 115: 448-454.

Emslie, S. D., P. Ritchie, and D. Lambert. 2003. Late-Holocene penguin occupation and diet at King George Island, Antarctic Peninsula. American Geophysical Union, Antarctic Research Series 79: 171-180.

Emslie, S. D., P. A. Berkman, D. G. Ainley, L. Coats, and M. Polito. 2003. Late-Holocene initiation of ice-free ecosystems in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Marine Ecology Progress Series 262: 19-25.

Emslie, S. D. and C. Guerra Correa. 2003. A new species of penguin (Speniscidae: Spheniscus) and other birds from the late Miocene/early Pliocene of Chile. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 116: 308-316.

Polito, M., S. D. Emslie, and W. Walker. 2002. A 1000-yr record of Adélie penguin diet in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica. Antarctic Science 14: 337-332.

McDaniel, J. D. and S. D. Emslie. 2002. Fluctuations in Adélie penguin prey size in the mid to late Holocene, northern Marguerite Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biology 25: 618-623.

Emslie, S. D. and J. D. McDaniel. 2002. Adélie penguin diet and climate change during the middle to late Holocene in northern Marguerite Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. Polar Biology 25: 222-229.

Emslie, S. D. 2002. Fossil shrews (Insectivora: Soricidae) from the late Pleistocene of Colorado. Southwestern Naturalist 47: 62-69.

Maness, T. and S. D. Emslie. 2001. An analysis of possible genotoxic exposure in adult and juvenile Royal Terns (Sterna maxima) in North Carolina. Waterbirds 24: 352-360.

McGinnis, T. and S. D. Emslie. 2001. The foraging ecology of Royal and Sandwich Terns in North Carolina. Waterbirds 24: 361-370.

Emslie, S. D. 2001. Radiocarbon dates from abandoned penguin colonies in the Antarctic Peninsula region. Antarctic Science 13: 289-295.