Ellen Aikens

Ellen completed her PhD through the Program in Ecology at the University of Wyoming in December 2019.  Her graduate research focused on ungulate migration, with a specific focus on the drivers of spring migration. Soon, Ellen will be starting a post-doc at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior.

Before coming to Wyoming, Ellen worked at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s GIS lab, where she analyzed remote sensing and GPS telemetry data for conservation research projects across the globe. Ellen is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the Berry Fellowship.  Ellen earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Ursinus College.

You can find out more about her research at here. 



For the most up-to-date list of Ellen’s publications, see her google scholar profile

Jesmer BR, Merkle JA, Goheen JR, Aikens EO, Beck JL, Courtemanch AB, Hurley MA, McWhirter DE, Miyasaki HM, Monteith KL, and Kauffman MJ (2018). Is ungulate migration culturally transmitted? Evidence of social learning from translocated animals. Science 361, no. 6406: 1023-1025.

Aikens EO, Kauffman MJ, Merkle JA, Dwinnell SP, Fralick G. and Monteith KL (2017). The greenscape shapes surfing of resource waves in a large migratory herbivore. Ecology Letters 20(6): 741-750.

Merkle JA, Monteith KL, Aikens EO, Hayes MM, Hershey KR, Middleton AD, Oates BA, Sawyer H, Scurlock BM, Kauffman MJ (2016). Large herbivores surf waves of green-up in spring. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283:20160456

Jenks KE, Aikens EO, Songsasen N, Calabrese J,  Fleming C, Bhumpakphan N, Wanghongsa S, Kanchanasaka B, Songer M, and Leimgruber P (2015). Tools for comparative movement analysis: a case study of sympatric dholes and jackals in a human-dominated landscape. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 63: 546-554.

Straub CS, Simasek NP, Dohm R, Gapinski MR, Aikens EO, and Nagy C (2014). Plant diversity increases herbivore movement and vulnerability to predation. Basic and Applied Ecology 15(1): 50-58.

Straub C S, Simasek NP,  Gapinski M R, Dohm R, Aikens E O, and Muscella S (2013). Influence of nonhost plant diversity and natural enemies on the potato leafhopper, Empoasca fabae, and pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, in alfalfa. International Journal of Pest Management 86(2):235-244.


Selected Presentations

Aikens EO, et al., Drought shortens spring, impedes resource tracking and mediates a trade-off between resource quality and stability for migratory mule deer. The 14th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Big Sky, MT, September 13th, 2018.

Aikens EO, et al., Comparing the strength and determinants of green-wave surfing across diverse ecosystems and multiple taxa of migratory ungulates. The 10th EuroDeer meeting, Stelvio National Park, Italy, June 26th, 2018

Aikens EO, et al., Surfing the green wave in a variable environment: not all migration routes are affected equally by drought. Wyoming Wildlife Society Conference, Jackson, WY, Dec 2017.

Aikens EO. Evaluating green wave surfing in migratory mule deer: moving from ecology to management. WY Coop Unit Annual Cooperators Meeting, Laramie, WY, Apr 4th, 2017.

Aikens EO, et al., Spatiotemporal patterns of phenology shape green wave surfing in migratory mule deer. The Gordon Research Conference on the Movement Ecology of Animals, Ventura, CA, Mar 22nd – 23rd, 2017.

Aikens EO, et al., Quantifying greenscapes: spatiotemporal patterns of phenology shape green wave surfing in migratory mule deer. Presented at:

  1. Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society Conference, Cody, WY, Nov 16th, 2016.
  2. Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society, Raleigh, NC, Oct 19th, 2016.
  3. 13th Biennial Conference on the GYE, Grand Teton National Park, WY, Oct 6th, 2016.
  4. Large Herbivore Migrations in the Era of the Anthropocene, Oslo, Norway, Apr 18th, 2016.

Aikens EO. Surfing green waves of forage: evaluating the influence of climate change on mule deer movements and the fitness consequences of migration. Department of Zoology and Physiology Brown Bag Seminar Series, Laramie, WY, Mar 28th, 2017.

Aikens EO, et al., Does drought affect the ability of migratory mule deer to surf the green wave?  Presented at:

  1. Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society Conference, Lander WY, Dec 3rd, 2015.
  2. 22ndAnnual Conference of The Wildlife Society, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2015.

Scholarships & Fellowships

Wyoming NASA Space Grant Fellowship, NASA. 2018-Present

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation, 2013 – Present

Berry Fellowship, University of Wyoming, 2013

Kemper Scholarship, Kemper Foundation, 2008 -2011