Thomas Sisk, PhD

Thomas Sisk, PhD
  • Professor, Ecology
  • College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences




Subject-matter expertise

  • Conservation biology
  • Environmental conservation
  • Environmental policy and administration
  • Land management
  • Landscape ecology
  • Forest conservation and restoration
  • Spatial ecology and planning
  • Land use and landscape design


Ecologist Tom Sisk’s work focuses on improving our understanding of ongoing environmental change; engaging others in the challenges and rewards of conservation; and providing solutions to emerging problems facing policy makers and land managers in the West U.S.

At NAU's Lab of Landscape Ecology and Conservation Biology, Dr. Sisk and his students, along with external partners participating in the broader Landscape Conservation Initiative, work to generate new ecological understanding and link the science to land management practices including forestry, livestock grazing, riparian management, among other uses.

As part of the Landscape Conservation Initiative, Dr. Sisk and his colleagues create a network of linked research efforts across the West designed to advance the scientific understanding, and apply that knowledge to the difficult planning, design and management challenges involving multiple parties. They also train and educate a new generation of leaders in conservation science and stewardship.

Dr. Sisk’s current projects include:

  • Greater Grand Canyon Landscape Assessment – A partnership with the National Park Service to engage state, federal, and tribal land managers in a science-based, collaborative effort to identify management priorities and science needs for a 5-million-acre landscape surrounding Grand Canyon National Park.
  • Kane Research and Stewardship Partnership – Formalized collaborative research program with the Grand Canyon Trust and involving state and federal agencies, aimed at restoring native ecosystems and conserving diverse public values across 850,000 acres of moistly public lands on the North Rim of Grand Canyon.
  • Barriers and incentives to engagement in public policy and science-based advocacy – Examination of the levels of engagement by scientists in public policy, and the factors that underlie decisions to engage or avoid involvement in policy development related to one’s area of scientific expertise.

A native of New Mexico, Dr. Sisk serves on numerous advisory and editorial boards, and is a certified Senior Ecologist of the Ecological Society of America and an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow.

Research highlights

  • Title: Wildlife conservation planning under the U.S. Forest Service’s 2012 planning rule
    Authors: Schultz, C.A., T.D. Sisk, B.R. Noon, M.A. Nie
    Publication date: 2013
    Published: Journal of Wildlife Management
  • Title: Efficient species-level monitoring at broad spatial scales
    Authors: Noon, B.R., L.L. Bailey, T.D. Sisk, and K. McKelvey
    Publication date: 2012
    Published: Conservation Biology
  • Title: Barriers and incentives to engagement in public policy and science-based advocacy.
    Authors: Sisk, T.D., G. Singh, J. Tam, K.M.A. Chan, S. Klain, M. Mach, and R. Martone
    Publication date: 2011
    Published: Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
  • Title: Seeding sustainability in the West
    Authors: Sisk, T.D.
    Publication date: 2011
    Published: Utah Environmental Law Review

*For a full list of research, please visit:


  • Battin, J. and T.D. Sisk. 2011. One-sided edge responses in forest birds following restoration treatments. Condor 113:501-510.
  • Ries, L. and T.D. Sisk. 2010. What is an edge species? The implications of sensitivity to habitat edges, Oikos 119:1636-1642.
  • Sisk, T.D. and 13 Co-authors. 2010. Integrating restoration and conservation objectives at the landscape scale: The Kane and Two-mile Ranch Project. Pp. 44-66 in C. Van Riper III, B. Wakeling, and T. Sisk (eds.) The Colorado Plateau IV. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ. 347 pp.
  • Muñoz-Erickson, T., B. Aguilar-Gonzáles, M.R. Loeser, and T.D. Sisk. 2009. A framework to evaluate ecological and social outcomes of collaborative management: Lessons from implementation with a northern Arizona collaborative group. Environmental Management 45:132-144.
  • Ries, L. and T.D. Sisk. 2008. Edge effects are predicted by a simple model for a complex landscape. Oecologia 156:75–86.
  • Bowker, M.A., M.E. Miller, J. Belnap, T.D. Sisk, and N.C. Johnson. 2008. Prioritizing Conservation Effort through the Use of Biological Soil Crusts as Ecosystem Function Indicators in an Arid Region. Conservation Biology 22:1533-1543.

*For a full list of publications, please visit:

Awards and recognitions

  • John Wesley Powell Award, Grand Canyon Trust, 2013               
  • Project of the Year, Sustainable Environmental Research and Development Program, 2010         
  • Cecil H. and Ida Green Visiting Professor, University of British Columbia, 2010-2011       
  • Fellow, Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, 2001-present           
  • Certified Senior Ecologist, Ecological Society of America, 2004-present 

Special groups and committees

  • Policy Chair and Board Member, Society for Conservation Biology, North America Chapter, 2011 – present
  • Rapid Response Team, Ecological Society of America. 2010 – present
  • Board of Advisors, Issues in Ecology, Ecological Society of America. 2010 – present
  • Forest Health Advisory Council, Western Governors’ Association. 2003 – present
  • Senior Science Advisor, Grand Canyon Trust, Flagstaff, AZ, 2004 – present
  • Advisor, Black Mesa Trust, Kykotsmovi, AZ. 2004 – present
  • Board of Directors, The Forest Guild, Santa Fe, NM. 2001 – 2010
  • Board of Governors, Society for Conservation Biology. 2005 – 2008
  • Co-chair, Governor’s Committee to develop a Statewide Strategy for Arizona’s Forests, 2006 –2007
  • Peer Reviewer for BioScience, Conservation Biology, Ecological Applications, Ecology, and other journals


  • BA, Biology, Colorado College
  • Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Stanford University

Web pages