Conservation & Science Staff Bios

Liza Watson Lehrer, M.S.

  Urban Wildlife Ecologist
Urban Wildlife Institute


  • M.S. – Effects of urbanization on survival rates, anti-predator behavior and movements of woodchucks (Marmota monax), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • B.A. – Zoology, Washington University in St. Louis

Areas of Expertise

  • Urban wildlife ecology
  • Landscape ecology
  • Behavioral ecology

About Liza Watson Lehrer:

Liza’s interest in wildlife began as a kid, while digging through her backyard and looking for bugs and worms to scare her sister. In college, she expanded her education with summer internships including wildlife rehabilitation, collecting behavioral data on Mexican wolves and a semester abroad studying marine life in the Great Barrier Reef.

After earning her degree in zoology, Liza was fortunate to work as a research intern at Lincoln Park Zoo and later as animal records keeper. It was her work at the zoo, and life in Chicago, that lead to her fascination with urban wildlife. Coyotes and foxes were becoming regular residents of the city, but how do they move about the urban landscape? What types of adjustments do they make to survive? To examine some of these questions, Liza returned to graduate school to study how urbanization affects survival, movements and behavior of an urban-adapter species, the woodchuck.

As urban wildlife ecologist for the Urban Wildlife Institute, Liza manages and collects data for the institute’s field research projects, including the Urban Wildlife Biodiversity Monitoring project. She coordinates collaborations and leads a project in partnership with the University of Illinois on the effects of relocation on nuisance woodchucks, which expands upon her master’s research. Liza’s research interests include urban wildlife, landscape ecology, behavioral ecology, wildlife disease and managing human-wildlife conflict.

Prior to joining the Urban Wildlife Institute, Liza served as an avian field assistant on a project examining urban disease ecology of West Nile virus and as a guest engagement leader at Lincoln Park Zoo.


Vernon, M.E., Magle, S.B., Lehrer, E.W., and Bramble, J.E. 2014. Invasive European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) Association with Mammalian Species Distribution in Natural Areas of the Chicagoland Region, USA. Natural Areas Journal 34(2):134-143. 2014.

Lehrer,  E.W., R.L. Schooley, and J.K. Whittington. 2012. Survival and anti-predator behavior of woodchucks across an urban-agricultural landscape. Canadian Journal of Zoology: 90:12-21.

Hamer, S., E.W. Lehrer, and S. Magle 2012. Wild birds as sentinels for multiple zoonotic pathogens along an urban to rural gradient in greater Chicago, Illinois. Zoonoses and Public Health.

Lehrer, E.W., S.L. Fredebaugh, R.L. Schooley, and N.E. Mateus-Pinilla. 2010. Prevalence of antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii in woodchucks across an urban-rural gradient. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 46:977-980.

Lehrer, E.W. and R.L. Schooley. 2010. Space use of woodchucks across an urbanization gradient within an agricultural landscape. Journal of Mammalogy 91:1342-1349.

Vernon, M.E., S.B. Magle, E.W. Lehrer, and J.E. Bramble . Invasive European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) association with mammalian species distribution in natural areas of the Chicagoland region. In preparation.

Lehrer, E.W., R.L. Schooley, and J.K. Whittington. . Survival and anti-predator behavior of woodchucks across an urban-agricultural landscape. In press, Canadian Journal of Zoology.