Mike Mooring, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology

Dr. Mike Mooring has been conducting behavioral ecology research since 1985, mounting field studies of African antelope, North American ungulates, and Neotropical mammals. During this time, he has worked in six countries and five states, navigating the logistical challenges of field research in a variety of contexts. His doctoral research focused on the parasite-defense behavior of impala in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia. Mooring received his Ph.D. from the Animal Behavior Graduate Group at University of California, Davis, in 1993 and then completed postdoctoral positions at the University of Pretoria, University of Alberta, and University of California, Davis. Since coming to PLNU in 1997, he has directed over 50 students in field research projects, primarily with bighorn sheep, American bison, and Neotropical felids. His current work in Costa Rica is at the interface of ecology and conservation biology; A Trek for Conservation article. Since 2010, he and his students have worked with locals to survey the large mammalian predators and prey inhabiting the cloud forests of the Talamanca Cordillera, a high elevation mountain range in eastern Costa Rica that has been barely studied. The project promotes community-based conservation by empowering local communities to conduct their own wildlife research and engage in environmental education. Mooring's research interests include parasite defense behavior, sexual selection and segregation, behavioral endocrinology, acoustical communication, and predator-prey interactions. His family lives on the PLNU campus — his wife is a wildlife artist, his daughter is a PLNU international studies major and loves to travel, and his son is a passionate soccer player who is studying environmental biology at PLNU.

Mike Mooring Research Website


Google Scholar Profile

Ocelot Learning Module

Summer Research

2019 Summer Research Video (Designed by Student Abby Wagner)

PLNU Viewpoint Article - A Trek for Conservation 

PLNU Viewpoint Article - "Return to Cerro Kamuk: Perspectives from the Research Trail"

Christianity Today Podcast - "Finding God Among Big Cats and Netflix Docs."

The Wildlife Society - "Wild Cam: Costa Rica's Black Panthers and Elusive Bush Dogs"


  • Ph.D., Animal Behavior, University of California, Davis
  • M.Sc., Animal Behavior, University of California, Davis
  • B.A., Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder

Courses Taught

  • Environment and People – BIO 1002
  • Ecology and Conservation Biology – BIO 1005
  • Neotropical Ecology – BIO 3040
  • Conservation Ecology – BIO 3063
  • Vertebrate Biology – BIO 4010
  • Animal Behavior – BIO 4030

Experience in Field

  • PLNU Biology, Full Professor (tenured), 2006 – present
  • PLNU Biology, Associate Professor, 2002 – 2006
  • PLNU Biology, Assistant Professor, 1997 – 2002
  • University of California Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, Postdoctoral Research Associate, 1996 – 1997
  • University of Alberta Biological Sciences, NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, 1995 – 1996
  • University of Pretoria Zoology, Visiting Scientist and Postdoctoral Researcher, 1994 – 1995
  • Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wild Life Management, Research Associate, 1990 – 1993
  • American Musical and Dramatic Academy (New York City), Performing Arts Student, 1980 – 1982
  • United Farm Workers Union (California), Community Organizer and Service Center Director, 1972 – 1978

Professional and Community Involvement

  • Research Fellow, Zoological Society of San Diego, 2013 – present
  • Visiting Associate Professor, University of California, Davis, 2004 – 2006
  • Member, Animal Behaviour Society
  • Founding Member, International Society for Behavioral Ecology
  • Member, American Society of Mammalogists
  • Member, The Wildlife Society
  • Member, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
  • Member, Society for Conservation Biology

Awards and Honors

  • Fellow of the Zoological Society of San Diego, 2013-2022

  • Quetzal Education and Research Grant, seven awards from 2012-2018
  • San Diego Zoo Global Jaguar Awards, ten awards from 2011-2020
  • Principal Investigator, NSF-RUI Award IOB-0517771, "Fitness Consequences of Sexually Selected Acoustical Signaling in American Bison", 2005 – 2009
  • Sabbatical Grants, three from 2003-2020
  • PLNU Wesleyan Center Fellow, 2001
  • PLNU Wesleyan Center Scholar, four awards from 2000 – 2010
  • PLNU Research and Special Projects Awards, 18 awards from 1999-2020

  • PLNU Alumni Awards, 12 awards from 1999-2019

  • American Society of Mammalogists Research Award, 1990

  • Sigma Xi Awards, two awards from 1988 – 1989
  • University of California, Davis, Research Awards, three awards from 1988 – 1990
  • University of California, Davis, Fellowships, five fellowships from 1987 – 1991
  • Graduated Summa Cum Laude, University of Colorado, Boulder, 1987

Dissertations, Presentations, and Publications

  • de Oliveira, T.G., Fox-Rosales, L.A., Ramírez-Fernández, J.D. et al. Ecological modeling, biogeography, and phenotypic analyses setting the tiger cats’ hyperdimensional niches reveal a new species. Sci Rep 14, 2395 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-52379-8
  • Mooring, M., Cordero, A. M., Ewing, J. (2023). Wildlife Crossings in Costa Rica: Are wildlife crossing structures effective in mitigating roadkill mortality on tropical highways? OCELOTS Incubator: Creating an online module in tropical biology, QUBES Educational Resources. DOI: https://qubeshub.org/community/groups/ocelots/publications?id=4409&v=1Ocelot Learning Module.
  • Villalobos-Hoffman, R., Ewing, J.E., Mooring, M.S. Do wildlife crossings mitigate the roadkill mortality of tropical mammals? A case study from Costa Rica. Diversity 14: 665. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/d14080665
  • Mooring, M. S., and Eppert, A. A. Patrones de actividad circadiana y lunar del jaguar y el puma en relación con sus presas y competidoras (Carnivora: Felidae). UNED Research Journal 14(Supl.1): e3858. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22458/urj.v14iS1.3858
  • Eppert, A. A., Botts, R. T., and Mooring, M. S. Selección natural del melanismo en jaguar y tigrillo (Carnivora: Felidae). UNED Research Journal 14(Supl.1): e3857. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22458/urj.v14iS1.3857
  • González-Tenorio, R., Eppert, A. A., and Mooring, M.S. Diversidad y patrones de
    actividad de mamíferos silvestres medianos y grandes en la Cordillera de Talamanca, Costa Rica. UNED Research Journal 13: e3621. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22458/urj.v13i2.3621
  • Botts, R. T, Eppert, A. A., Wiegman, Rodriguez, A., T. J., Blankenship, S. R., Asselin, E. M., Garley, W. M., Wagner, A. P., Ullrich, S. E., Allen, G. R., and Mooring, M. S. Circadian activity patterns of mammalian predators and prey in Costa Rica. Journal of Mammalogy 101: 1313–1331. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyaa103
  • Botts, R. T, Eppert, A. A., Wiegman, T. J., Blankenship, S. R., Rodriguez, A., Wagner, A. P., Ullrich, S. E., Allen, G. R., Garley, W. M., Asselin, E. M., and Mooring, M. S. Does moonlight increase predation risk for elusive mammals in Costa Rica? Tropical Conservation Science 13: 1–21. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1940082920952405
  • Mooring, M. S., Eppert, A. A., and Botts, R. T. Natural selection of melanism in Costa Rican jaguar and oncilla: a test of Gloger’s Rule and the temporal segregation hypothesis. Tropical Conservation Science 13: 1-15.  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1940082920910364
  • Sáenz-Bolaños, C., Fuller, T.K., Mooring, M.S., Porras, J., Sievert, P.R., Montalvo, V.H., Carrillo, E. (2019). Bush dogs in Central America: recent range expansion, cryptic distribution, or both? Tropical Conservation Science 12: 1-5.
  • Le Yang, Y.L., Ming, T., Zhigang, J., Zhongqiu, L., Mooring, M. Tick-defense
    grooming patterns of two sympatric Tibetan ungulates. Journal of Zoology 307: 1-7.
  • Wyman MT, Mooring MS, Pinter-Wollman N. (2016). Socially Connected Dominant Bison Bulls Emphasize Mating Quality Over Quantity. In review for Animal Behaviour.
  • Mooring MS, Penedo MCT. (2014). Behavioral Versus Genetic Measures of Fitness in Bison Bulls. Bison bison. Journal of Mammalogy 95: 913-924.
  • Li Z, Beauchamp G, Mooring MS. (2014). Relaxed Selection for Tick-Defense Grooming in Père David’s Deer? Biological Conservation. 178: 12-18.
  • Wyman MT, Mooring MS, McCowan B, Penedo MCT, Reby D, Hart LA. (2012). Acoustic Cues to Size and Quality in the Vocalizations of Male North American Bison. Bison bison. Animal Behavior. 84: 1381-1391.
  • Wyman MT, Mooring MS, McCowan B, Penedo MCT, Hart LA. (2012). Bellow Amplitude of Bison Reflects Male Quality, Seasonal Condition, and Motivation. Animal Behaviour. 76: 1625-1639.
  • Mooring MS, Blumstein DT, Reisig DD, Niemeyer JM, Osborne ER. (2007). Insect-Repelling Behaviour in Bovids: Role of Mass, Tail Length, and Group Size. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 91: 383-392.
  • Mooring MS, Patton ML, Reisig DD, Osborne ER, Kanallakan AL, Aubery SM. (2006). Sexually Dimorphic Grooming in Bison: Influence of Body Size and Testosterone. Animal Behaviour. 72: 737-745.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL, Fitzpatrick TA, Benjamin JE, Fraser IC, Nishihira TT, Reisig DD. (2006). Grooming in Desert Bighorn Sheep and the Ghost of Parasites Past. Behavioral Ecology. 17: 364-371.
  • Mooring MS, Patton ML, Lance VA, Hall BM, Schaad EW, Fetter GA, Fortin SS, McPeak KM. (2006). Glucocorticoids of Bison Bulls in Relation to Social Status. Hormones & Behavior 49: 369-375.
  • Mooring MS, Reisig DD, Osborne ER, Kanallakan AL, Wiseman DS, Huber RR. (2005). Sexual Segregation in Bison. Bison bison: A Test of Multiple Hypotheses. Behaviour. 142: 897-927.
  • Mooring MS, Patton ML, Lance VA, Hall BM, Schaad EW, Fortin SS, Jella JE, McPeak KM. (2004). Fecal Androgens of Bison Bulls During the Rut. Hormones & Behavior. 46: 392-398.

See More Dissertations, Presentations, and Publications

  • Mooring MS, Fitzpatrick TA, Nishihira TT, Reisig DD. (2004). Vigilance, Predation Risk, and the Allee Effect in Desert Bighorn Sheep. Journal of Wildlife Management. 68: 519-532.
  • Mooring MS, Rominger EM. (2004).  Reply – Is the Activity Budget the Holy Grail of Sexual Segregation? Behaviour 141: 521-530.
  • Mooring MS, Blumstein DT, Stoner CJ. (2004). The Evolution of Parasite-Defence Grooming in Ungulates. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 81: 17-37.
  • Mooring MS, Fitzpatrick TA, Benjamin JE, Fraser IC, Nishihira TT, Reisig DD, Rominger EM. (2003). Sexual Segregation in Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis Canadensis Mexicana). Behaviour. 140: 183-207.
  • Mooring MS, Fitzpatrick TA, Fraser IC, Benjamin JE, Reisig DD, Nishihira TT. (2003). Insect-Defense Behavior by Desert Bighorn Sheep. Southwestern Naturalist. 48: 635-643.
  • Mooring MS, Reisig DD, Niemeyer JM, Osborne ER. (2002). Sexually and Developmentally Dimorphic Grooming: A Comparative Survey of the Ungulata. Ethology. 108: 911-934.
  • Mooring MS, Benjamin JE, Harte CR, Herzog NB. (2000). Testing the Interspecific Body Size Principle in Ungulates: The Smaller They Come, The Harder They Groom. Animal Behaviour. 60: 35-45.
  • Samuel WM, Mooring MS, Aalangdong OI. (2000). Adaptations of Winter Ticks (Dermacentor Albipictus) to Invade Moose and Moose to Evade Ticks. Alces. 36: 183-195.
  • Mooring MS, Dennis NJ. (1999). Impala, the Living Fossil. Africa Environment & Wildlife. 7: 52-61.
  • Mooring MS, Samuel WM. (1999). Premature Loss of Winter Hair in Free-Ranging Moose (Alces Alces) Infested with Winter Ticks (Dermacentor Albipictus) is Correlated with Grooming Rate. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 77: 148-156.
  • Mooring MS, Samuel WM. (1998). The Biological Basis of Grooming in Moose (Alces Alces): Programmed Versus Stimulus-Driven Grooming. Animal Behaviour. 56: 1561-1570.
  • Mooring MS, Gavazzi AJ, Hart BL. (1998). Effects of Castration on Grooming in Goats. Physiology and Behavior. 64: 707-713.
  • Mooring MS, Samuel WM. (1998). Tick Defense Strategies in Bison: The Role of Grooming and Hair Coat. Behaviour. 135: 693-718.
  • Mooring MS, Samuel WM. (1998). Tick-Removal Grooming by Elk (Cervus Elaphus): Testing Principles from the Programmed-Grooming Hypothesis. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 76: 740-750.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL. (1997). Reciprocal Allogrooming in Impala Lambs. Ethology. 103: 665-680.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL. (1997). Self Grooming in Impala Mothers and Lambs: Testing the Body Size and Tick Challenge Principles. Animal Behaviour. 53: 925-934.
  • Mooring MS, McKenzie AA, Hart BL. (1996). Role of Sex and Breeding Status in Grooming and Total Tick Load of Impala. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 39: 259-266.
  • Mooring MS, Mundy PJ. (1996). Factors Influencing Host Selection by Yellow-Billed Oxpeckers at Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe. African Journal of Ecology. 34: 177-188.
  • Mooring MS, McKenzie AA, Hart BL. (1996). Grooming in Impala: Role of Oral Grooming in Removal of Ticks and Effects of Ticks in Increasing Grooming Rate. Physiology and Behavior. 59: 965-971.
  • Mooring MS, Mundy PJ. (1996). Interactions Between Impala and Oxpeckers at Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe. African Journal of Ecology. 34: 54-65.
  • Mooring MS, Mazhowu W. (1995). Geographic Distribution of Ticks and Comparison of Tick Load on Male and Female Impala from Three Sites in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Veterinary Journal. 26: 76-85.
  • Mooring MS, McKenzie AA. (1995). The Efficiency of Patch Sampling for Determination of Relative Tick Burdens in Comparison with Total Tick Counts. Experimental & Applied Acarology. 19: 533-547.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL. (1995). Costs of Allogrooming in Impala: Distraction from Vigilance. Animal Behaviour. 49: 1414-1416.
  • Mooring MS. (1995). The Effect of Tick Challenge on Grooming Rate by Impala. Animal Behaviour. 50: 377-392.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL. (1995). Differential Grooming Rate and Tick Load of Territorial Male and Female Impala, Aepyceros Melampus. Behavioral Ecology. 6: 94-101.
  • Mooring MS, Mazhowu W, Scott CA. (1994). The Effect of Rainfall on Tick Challenge at Kyle Recreational Park, Zimbabwe. Experimental & Applied Acarology. 18: 507-520.
  • Mooring MS. (1994). Allogrooming, an Essential Activity in Impala Behaviour. Zimbabwe Wildlife. 19-22.
  • Mooring MS. (1993). Predation on a Newborn Impala by a Martial Eagle. Ostrich. 64: 185-186.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL. (1993). Effects of Relatedness, Dominance, Age, and Association on Reciprocal Allogrooming by Captive Impala. Ethology. 94: 207-220.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL. (1992). Animal Grouping for Protection from Parasites: Selfish Herd and Encounter-Dilution Effects. Behaviour. 123: 173-193.
  • Hart BL, Hart LA, Mooring MS, Olubayo R. (1992). Biological Basis of Grooming Behaviour in Antelope: The Body Size, Vigilance and Habitat Principles. Animal Behaviour. 44: 615-631.
  • Mooring MS, Hart BL. (1992). Reciprocal Allogrooming in Dam-Reared and Hand-Reared Impala Fawns. Ethology. 90: 37-51.
  • Mooring MS, Rubin ES. (1991). Nursing Behavior and Early Development of Kenyan Impala at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Zoo Biology. 9: 329-339.
  • Hart BL, Hart LA, Mooring MS. (1990). Differential Foraging of Oxpeckers on Impala in Comparison with Sympatric Antelope Species. African Journal of Ecology. 28: 240-249.
  • Mooring MS. (1989). Ontogeny of Allogrooming in Mule Deer (Odocoileus Hemionus). Journal of Mammalogy. 70: 434-437.