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Dr. John (Jack) Hopkins

Assistant Professor of Wildlife Biology

Dr. John (Jack) Hopkins

Academic Background

Dr. Hopkins earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies, concentrating in Wildlife Biology, at Denison University and a Ph.D. in Fish and Wildlife Biology at Montana State University. While in graduate school, Hopkins studied the foraging behavior of black bears in Yosemite National Park with his mentors Drs. Steven Kalinowski (Montana State), Paul Koch (UC Santa Cruz), and Chuck Schwartz (USGS). Prior to graduate school, Hopkins worked as a field biologist for the U.S. Forest Service in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the US Geological Survey in Glacier National Park, and National Park Service in both the US Virgin Islands, and more recently, Yosemite. Before joining Unity College, he held Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of Alberta, Peking University in China, University of California San Diego, and the University of California Merced.


Dr. Hopkins is interested in understanding the relationship between people and wildlife. He often uses a variety of sampling methods and quantitative approaches to investigate the effects of human activities on wildlife populations and communities. He currently studies i) how free-ranging mammals, especially bears, respond to environmental change; ii) the behavioral, physiological, ecological, and demographic consequences of diet variation; and iii) why some individuals are in conflict with people while others coexist. Please visit his website to read more about his research.

Hopkins often uses stable isotopes from plant and animal tissues to investigate the trophic structure of food webs, the realized niches of populations, and the diets of individuals. He is active in advancing the use of stable isotope analysis in wildlife studies. For instance, he co-developed a stable isotope mixture modeling framework (IsotopeR) used to estimate the diets of animals. He and many others have used such models to investigate the foraging behavior of a variety of species from Threatened grizzly bears to invasive rats.

Although Hopkins uses a wide variety of traditional methods to study wildlife, including live-capture and radio-telemetry, he often uses noninvasive sampling methods to conduct his studies because they do not require handling the target animals and often yield relatively large samples that can be used for genetic and isotopic analyses. Hopkins often samples free-ranging mammal populations by collecting their hair. He uses microsatellite genotypes derived from hair follicles to estimate the occupancy or abundance of populations and to identify individuals and their relatives. He also uses stable isotopes from tissues cataloged in museums to gain a deeper temporal perspective about the diets of animals and the environment in which they lived.

Hopkins’ research is often collaborative, multidisciplinary, and innovative. For over 15 years, he has worked with a variety of partners from all over the world, including state, federal, provincial, and tribal agencies, as well as NGOs and other interest groups. Much of his research is motivated by the needs of these resource management agencies or conservation groups. As such, informing wildlife conservation, management, and policy is often a main goal of his research.

Teaching & Mentorship

Dr. Hopkins often frames lectures around questions, uses guided inquiry and Socratic questioning in small classrooms, and provides hands-on learning exercises in the lab and field. He teaches a variety of classes related to wildlife ecology, conservation, and management.

WF 1002: Introduction to Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation
ES 1003:  Introduction to Natural Resources
WF 1003: North American Wildlife
BI 2004:   Population and Community Ecology
WF 2433: Wildlife Techniques
WF 3103: Habitat Assessment and Management
BI 3273:   Mammalogy
WF 3893: Wildlife Capture and Chemical Immobilization
UC 4501:  American Black Bear Ecology, Research, and Management
UC 4501: Carnivore Research and Management

Hopkins is also active in mentoring graduate students at other institutions and undergraduate students aiming for field-based internships and abroad programs, graduate school, and careers in wildlife research and management. His motivation as a mentor is to see his students succeed in reaching their academic, professional, and personal goals. He will do all he can to help students find their way and stay on track.

Selected Publications

Hopkins J.B., III, J.M. Ferguson, D.B. Tyers, & C.M. Kurle. 2017. Selecting the best stable isotope mixing model to estimate grizzly bear diets in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0174903.

Hopkins, J.B. III, & C.M. Kurle. 2015. Measuring the realized niches of animals using stable isotopes: from rats to bears. Methods in Ecology and Evolution7:210–221.

Hopkins, J.B. III, P.L. Koch, J.M. Ferguson, & S.T. Kalinowski. 2014. The changing anthropogenic diets of American black bears over the past century in Yosemite National Park. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12:107–114.

Hopkins, J.B. III. 2013. Use of genetics to investigate socially learned foraging behavior in free-ranging American black bears. Journal of Mammalogy94:1214–1222.

Hopkins, J.B. III, P.L. Koch, C.C. Schwartz, J.M. Ferguson, S.S. Greenleaf, & S.T. Kalinowski. 2012. Stable isotopes to detect food-conditioned bears and evaluate human-bear management. Journal of Wildlife Management 76:703–713.

Hopkins, J.B. III, & J.M. Ferguson. Estimating the diets of animals using stable isotopes and a comprehensive Bayesian mixing model. 2012. PLoS ONE 7: e28478.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028478

Go to Google scholar or his website for a full list of publications and related press.