Robert L Crabtree

Presenter details:

Robert (Bob) L. Crabtree, Ph.D.

Bozeman, Montana

Victoria, British Columbia


Robert (Bob) L. Crabtree is an independent, entrepreneurial scientist with a focus on understanding human and climate impacts on the ecology of dynamic landscapes—from genes to species populations to large regional ecosystems.  With a strong background in field-based biology, quantitative analysis, and sensor technologies, he had helped pioneer the emerging field of ecological forecasting to aid decision-makers with lasting conservation solutions on-the-ground.  Crabtree is currently the Chief Scientist at Yellowstone Ecological Research Center, Research Professor in the University of Montana’s Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Science, and Visiting Scholar at the University of Victoria’s Geography Department.  He serves on the board of the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, active in numerous professional organizations, and mentors field staff, graduate students, and post-docs.  He has authored 70 scientific publications as well as numerous popular articles, has founded, co-founded, and directed numerous profit and non-profit organizations, has lead over 80 successful grant-writing efforts leading to another 100+ publications, and crafted over 50 MOUs and cooperative agreements with federal and state agencies.  His work has appeared repeatedly in the NYTimes, nature films, and on social media.



As a youth, Crabtree was fascinated with songbird communities and the process of predation, which included hunting and fishing.  In high school and as an undergrad in college, he volunteered or worked every chance he had to gain field experience with as many species as possible (small mammals, forest birds, raptors, carnivores, trout, and plants).  In graduate school, he then developed new approaches to solving age-old conservation problems:  designing habitats for increased waterfowl production and developing strategies to reduce depredations on domestic species.  His two post-doc appointments featured field-based sampling of ungulate populations and quantitative methods to predictive wildlife movements and predator-prey interactions in northern California and Yellowstone.  He has worked for two state fish and game agencies, eight federal agencies, and numerous private organizations.


After landing two large research grants in the Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1989, he founded several organizations based on long-term, multi-scale, collaborative research across ecological and political boundaries to drive effective conservation outcomes that sustain species populations and the habitats that sustain them.  He was instrumental in creating a partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NASA that provide critical habitat and climate information leading to decision-making to recover species, prevent population declines, and forge co-existence strategies to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.  His diverse background—wildlife and fisheries biology, population modeling, remote sensing, policy analysis, protected area management, restoration ecology, and ecological forecasting—has influenced his recent focus on increasing the role of science at the decision-making table with win-win conservation solutions.  He advocates for coordinated, adaptive decision-making based on the continued monitoring of all environmental impacts to annually revise and modify habitat and landscape planning and formation of sustained policies.



Crabtree received a bachelor’s in Fisheries and Wildlife Science and a Ph.D. in Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Sciences at the University of Idaho while working for the Battelle Memorial Institute at the DOE Hanford Nuclear Reservation.  He received his M.S. degree from Utah State University working at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  He then accepted a post-doctoral and Visiting Scholar position at U.C. Berkeley funded by the Leopold Endowed Chair in Wildlife Ecology.  Although he acknowledges his academic training, Crabtree credits his real-world experience with the farming/ranching, engineering, Indigenous culture, military and medical science, social science, and many years in the field, as the key to conservation success for people and the ecosystems they rely on.