Heiko Wittmer

AProf Heiko Wittmer profile picture

Ecology and Conservation Biology School of Biological Sciences

Personal Bio

PhD University of British Columbia | Diploma Biology Saarland University

I graduated as a “Diplom Biologe” with a major in Zoology from Saarland University (Germany) in 1998. My thesis research focused on the spatial ecology of rare and endangered European wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris). In 1999, I started my PhD with Bruce McLellan and David Shackleton at the University of British Columbia (Canada). My dissertation research focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying the decline of endangered mountain caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) and marked the beginning of my interest in ungulates and predator-prey interactions. Upon completion of my PhD in 2004, I was briefly affiliated with Justin Brashares’ lab at the University of California in Berkeley (USA) before commencing a two-year postdoc with Doug Armstrong at Massey University (New Zealand). From 2007 until 2010, I was employed as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at the University of California in Davis (USA). My affiliation with UC Davis continued until 2014. I joined the faculty in the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand in 2010 where I am currently an Associate Professor in Ecology and Conservation. I also currently am a member of the IUCN Deer Specialist Group and serve on the editorial board of Ecology and Ecological Monographs.

Research Interests

I am both an ecologist and conservation biologist. Because of my strong commitment to conservation, my research is mostly applied, field-based, and data driven. Together with my students I have conducted research on five continents but now mostly work in North America, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand. I also aim to advance ecological theory and use modelling and quantitative statistical methods to do so.

The primary focus of my work is currently directed at understanding the dynamical consequences of direct and indirect species interactions (e.g., predation, apparent competition, scavenging) on ungulates in complex multi-species systems. More recently I have expanded my research interests to understanding drivers of community structure and dynamics in mega-diverse tropical systems in Indonesian Borneo. My collaborator for this research is Andrew Marshall from the University of Michigan (USA). Finally, I use a combination of monitoring methods including motion-activated remote cameras and citizen science to better direct biodiversity conservation in New Zealand.

View the Ecology and Conservation Biology research group


Bose, S., Forrester, T.D., Brazeal, J.L., Sacks, B.N., Casady, D.S., and Wittmer, H.U. 2017. Implications of fidelity and philopatry for the population structure of female black-tailed deer. Behavioral Ecology (doi:10.1093/beheco/arx047).

Allen, M.L., Wittmer, H.U., Setiawan, E., Jaffe, S., and Marshall, A.J. 2016. Scent marking in Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi): novel observations close a key gap in understanding felid communication behaviours. Scientific Reports 6:35433.

Allen, M.L., Wilmers, C.C., Elbroch, L.M., Golla, J.M., and Wittmer, H.U. 2016. The importance of motivation, weapons and foul odors in driving encounter competition in carnivores. Ecology 97:1905-1912.

Elbroch, L.M., Lendrum, P., Allen, M.L., and Wittmer, H.U.2015. Nowhere to hide: pumas, black bears, and competition refuges. Behavioral Ecology 26:247-254.

Forrester, T.D., Casady, D.S., and Wittmer, H.U.2015. Home sweet home: fitness consequences of site familiarity in female black-tailed deer. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69:603-612.

View complete list of publications at Google Scholar