Margaret C. Brittingham, Ph.D.

Margaret C. Brittingham, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Wildlife Resources
  • Extension Wildlife Specialist
409 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802

Areas of Expertise

  • Avian ecology
  • Effects of shale gas development on forests and birds
  • forest songbirds
  • Human impacts on bird population
  • Wildlife habitat management on private lands
  • Landscaping for birds and wildlife


  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison (1987)
  • M.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison (1981)
  • B.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison (1979)
  • B.A., Vanderbilt University (1977)

Academic Interests

Avian ecology; Avian response to oil and gas exploration and development; effects of habitat fragmentation on bird populations; managing for wildlife on private lands

Affiliated Programs

Graduate faculty, Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology.

Courses Taught

  • Ornithology (WFS 407)
  • Ornithology Lab (WFS 406)

Professional Affiliation

  • American Ornithologists' Union
  • Association of Field Ornithologists
  • Cooper Ornithological Society
  • Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association
  • National Audubon Society
  • Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology
  • Sigma Xi
  • Society for Conservation Biology
  • The Wildlife Society (National and Pennsylvania)
  • Wilson Ornithological Society

Recent Research/Educational Projects

The Effects of Conventional and Unconventional Oil and Gas Development on Forest Habitat and Birds

Energy exploration and development for oil and gas includes both shallow (conventional wells) and also deep horizontal wells associated with shale gas development. Shale gas development is relatively new to Pennsylvania and is occurring at a rapid rate within forest habitat in North Central Pennsylvania. My students and I have been researching the effects of shale gas development on forest habitat and birds. Our studies are providing baseline data on conditions at the onset of shale development and initial changes that are occurring. We are examining the impact energy extraction and development is having on Pennsylvania birds in order to determine community changes, and to determine which species benefit and which are most vulnerable. We are also initiating studies to examine potential impacts to forest salamanders and frogs.

Avian Response to Pennsylvania's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

The Pennsylvania Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was initiated in 2000, and within four years 40,000 ha of conservation grasslands were established in Southern Pennsylvania. My students and I have worked with researchers at the Pennsylvania Game Commission to examine the effects of CREP on farmland and grassland bird populations during the 10 years since the program began. Results are being used to target areas for enrollment and modify management guidelines.

Factors Influencing Habitat Quality and Productivity of Pennsylvania's Forest Songbirds

In forest habitat, a variety of factors including habitat fragmentation, acidic deposition and introduced pests like the hemlock Woolly Adeligid affect habitat quality and ultimately breeding success. My students and I are using field-based observational and experimental studies to determine factors influencing habitat quality and reproductive success. Research results will be used to develop management guidelines and conservation priorities.

Selected Publications

  • Brittingham, M. C., L.A. Langlois. and P.J. Drohan. 2014. Shale gas development- Bringing change to Pennsylvania forests and wildlife. The Wildlife Professional 8(3):22-27.
  • Brittingham, M. C., K. O. Maloney, A. M. Farag, D. D. Harper, and Z. H. Bowen. 2014. Ecological risks of shale oil and gas development to wildlife, aquatic resources and their habitats. Environmental Science & Technology 48:11034-11047.
  • Pabian, S.E., A. M. Wilson, and M.C. Brittingham. 2013. Mixed Responses of Farmland Birds to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in Pennsylvania. Journal of Wildlife Management doi: 10.1002/jwmg.514.
  • Drohan, P. J., M. Brittingham, J. Bishop, and K. Yoder. 2012. Early trends in landcover change and forest fragmentation due to shale-gas development in Pennsylvania: a potential outcome for the Northcentral Appalachians. Environmental Management 49:1061-1075.
  • Drohan, P. J., J. C. Finley, P. Roth, T. M. Schuler, S.L. Stout, M. C. Brittingham, N.C. Johnson. 2012. Oil and Gas Impacts on Forest Ecosystems: findings gleaned from the 2012 Goddard Forum at Penn State University. Environmental Practice 14:394-399.
  • Pabian, S. E. and M. C. Brittingham. 2012. Soil calcium and forest birds: Indirect links between nutrient availability and community composition. Ecosystems 15:748-760.
  • Bernard, M.J., L. J. Goodrich, W. M. Tzilkowski, and M. C. Brittingham. 2011. Site fidelity and lifetime territorial consistency of ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) in a contiguous forest. Auk 128:633-642.
  • Pabian, S. E. and M. C. Brittingham. 2011. Soil calcium availability limits forest songbird productivity and density. Auk 128:441-447.
  • Majunder, S.K., T. L. Master, M. C. Brittingham, R. M. Ross, R.S. Mulvihill, and J. E. Hoffman, editors. 2010. Avian Ecology and Conservation: A Pennsylvania Focus with National Implications. Pennsylvania Academy of Science, Easton, PA. 368 pp.
  • Steele, M. A., M. C. Brittingham, T.J. Maret, and J. F. Merritt, editors. 2010. Terrestrial Vertebrates of Pennsylvania - A Complete Guide to Species of Conservation Concern. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 507 pp.
  • Sughrue, K. M., M.C. Brittingham, J.B. French, Jr. 2008. Endocrine effects of the herbicide Linuron on American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). Auk 125:411-419.
  • Rodewald, P.G. and M.C. Brittingham. 2007. Stopover habitat use by spring migrant landbirds: the roles of habitat structure, leaf development, and food availability. Auk 124:1063-1074.
  • Rodewald, P.G. and M.C. Brittingham. 2004. Stopover habitats of landbirds during fall: use of edge-dominated and early-successional forests. Auk 121:1040-1055.