Dr. Joanna Burger

Rutgers University

604‑Allison Road

Piscataway, NJ 08854‑8082

Tel: (732) 445‑4318   Fax: (732) 445‑5870

                                                                  E‑mail: Burger@Biology.Rutgers.Edu





Biographical Information

    Joanna Burger is a behavioral ecologist whose primary interests are in the adaptive significance of social behavior in vertebrates, ecological risk, and biomonitoring. In the area of social behavior she works mainly with marine and coastal birds, including the effects of people and chemicals on reproductive success and ecology of colonial species. Her work on reptiles involves examining hibernation behavior and  behavior influenced by incubation temperature, including locomotion, anti-predator behavior, foraging, and over-wintering.

    For several years she has been examining patterns of heavy metal distribution worldwide, using avian and eggs feathers as indicators. This ongoing work involves examining the effects of low level lead, chromium and manganese exposure (similar to what children get when they eat lead paint) on behavior development of Herring Gulls, both in the field and in the laboratory. Her work with ecological risk assessment has included many different species and habitats. Some of her work involves using the Department of Energy as a case study to examine ecological health, ecological risk, and species protection. She is currently working at the Department of Energy's sites, including Hanford, Los Alamos, Idaho National Laboratory, Brookhaven, Amchitka and the Savannah River Site, developing ecological risk methodologies. She has served on several National Research Council Committees,  the U.S. National SCOPE Committee,  the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Endocrine Disruptors, and has participated in several international SCOPE committees on ecological risk, mercury, and hazardous wastes. She is a fellow of the  American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Ornithologist's Union,  and of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. She holds an honorary PhD from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. She has received the Distinguished Achievement from the Society of Risk Analysis and the Brewster Medal from the American Ornithologist Union.





   EOHSI, the Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute


   IMCS, the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences


  The Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology (JGPT) is an inter-university, inter-departmental program designed to train students in the discipline of toxicology. Established in 1980, the participating universities are Rutgers,  and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (UMDNJ-RWJMS).                                    

   Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution 

Joanna Burger , Ph.D., Minnesota. Avian behavior and ecology; salt marsh ecology; reptile behavior; behavioral effects of heavy metals. 


   The Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology (JGPT) is an inter-university, inter-departmental program designed to train students in the discipline of toxicology. The JGPT was established in 1980 and operates under standing bylaws approved by its faculty. The participating universities are Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (UMDNJ-RWJMS).

   The Center for Urban Restoration Ecology

The mission is to restore and enhance the ecological integrity of degraded public lands in various ways...

Joanna Burger: "Restoration of Avian Habitat in Urban/Suburban and Coastal Habitats." N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. "Factors Affecting Neotropical Migrant Diversity in NE Urban Areas." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Foundation.


Current Projects


Avian Studies

Barnegat Bay

Habitat Use and Foraging Behavior of Birds





Snake Hibernation Behavior

        Pine Snakes, threatened in New Jersey, breed in the Pine Barrens, dig their own nests, and over-winter in  hibernacula
they dig or modify. Since 1986, I have been following marked individuals in hibernacula. Some snakes have been found for 18
 of the last 21 years. Previous records for longevity in wild Pine Snakes (or their conspecifics elsewhere) have been only about
15 years, but there are no other similar studies that span the length of our study in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The snakes
 move from hibernation site to hibernacula, but sometimes return in later years to a given one.




Fishing, Fish Consumption and Risk

        Fishing is a popular pastime and provides both recreation and fish for consumption.  She has been investigating the reasons
why people fish, fish consumption patterns, contaminants in fish, and the resultant risks and benefits. She is particularly interested
in providing people with sufficient information to make their risk-based decisions.



Risk to Organisms From Mercury


Ecological Risk and Bioindicators

        One of my overall interests has been ecological risk in urban environments, the Jersey Shore, and at DOE sites. Developing bioindicators is critical to assessing ecological health determining remediation and restorations, evaluating restoration, and determining risk.  Since there are literally millions of individual species in ecosystems, it is critical be able to find species that will indicate something about the health and well-being of ecosystems. Often these are top-level predators within their systems, such as Pine Snakes, sharks, seabirds, raptors, or wolves. However, they can also be species that are particularly at risk, such as bottom dwelling fish in environments where the sediment at the bottoms of lakes or rivers are polluted.                                 



CRESP (Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation)

CRESP is an independent university consortium to develop information and methods of analysis and prediction that will support the decision-makers involved in managing the decommissioning and cleanup of American nuclear weapons production facilities. It will provide the U. S. Department Of Energy with a broader and deeper understanding of risk-related issues that concern waste cleanup. For general information on CRESP click here.


Amchitka and Aleutian studiesSince 2000 I have been working on examining metal and radionuclide levels in algae, invertebrates, fish and birds on Amchitka, Kiska, Adak and other Aleutian Islands. Much of this work was part of CRESP to examine the potential risk from radionuclide exposure from three underground nuclear test sites (1965-1971). In addition to radionuclide's, we also examined levels of mercury and other metals in subsistence foods.

Melding Western And Aleut Science To Understand Possible Radiation Risk To Marine Animals At Amchitka




New Jersey Oil Spill

Oil spills are a potential threat to the environment along the Jersey shore because both the New York harbor and Delaware are
major oil import and export regions.
 Animals, including humans, are increasingly exposed to a variety of environmental chemicals
that can cause adverse developmental neurobehavioral effects.
We've been examining the effect of lead and other contaminants
 from oil spill on behavioral development of young.



Behavior of Parrots & TIKO

tiko and owls

            Parrots are the most highly endangered group of birds, are long-lived, and are highly intelligent.  I have been interested in
the social behavior of parrots , including nesting behavior, foraging, behavior at clay licks, and aggressive interactions. My research
 interests run in parallel with an interest in companion parrots, and in education about companion parrots and urban parrots.
The Parrot who Owns Me (Random House) is a story about developing a relationship with a parrot, including why parrots behave
 as they do. 




This course is taught every year. For course outline and project click HERE




Service to the University, State, Nation, and World is extremely important. Joanna Burger is involved in committees at the University, State ( i.e., Governor's non-game Council  since 1978) National (for NRC, EPA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, DOE) and World  ( e.g. SCOPE) She is on several editorial boards, and is a consultant to industry, conservation organizations and state and federal agencies.


  Founding Member 

  She has served as a member of the Endangered and Nongame Advisory Committee since 1978.

She was Director for Chemical Analysis for 15 years and is now Co-Director of the Center for Outreach and Education.


Back to Top


 Click here to see all of Dr. Burgers Publications


Books for the Public:

The Parrot that Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship

  By Joanna Burger. Villard Press 2001.

Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
On Sale: April 24, 2001
Price: $23.95
ISBN: 978-0-679-46330-6 (0-679-46330-5)

Also available as an eBook and a trade paperback.

Visual Guide to Birds

Publisher: Firefly Books
Pages: 304 Publication Date: 9/12/2006                                       Trim Size: 9 1/4" x 9 1/4" x 1 1/4"
Notes: over 650 color photographs, illustrations and diagrams, factfiles, glossary, index
ISBN: 1554071771 hardcover with jacket Price in U.S.: $ 29.95
Rights Held: Canadian and US rights Price in Canada: $ 29.95
Library of Congress #: QL673.B86 2006                                     Dewey #: 598
BISAC Headings: NATURE / Birds & Birdwatching (NAT004000)
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Zoology / Ornithology (SCI070040)

Whispers in the Pines
Price: $22.95 

Subtitle: A Naturalist in the Northeast
Author: Joanna Burger
Subject: New Jersey and the Region/Ecology and Environmental/Natural History
Paper ISBN 0-8135-3794-0
Cloth ISBN 0-8135-3877-7
Pages: 352 pp. 91 b&w illus




by Joanna Burger. Rutgers University Press (1996)

TO OBTAIN: Call Rutgers Univ. Press 1 800 446-9323

Author: Joanna Burger
Subject: New Jersey and Regional Studies
Paper ISBN 0-8135-2300-1
Pages: 287 pp. 100 line drawings
Description: A literary trip along the Jersey Shore.

25 Nature Spectacles in New Jersey

Author:Joanna Burger and Michael Gochfeld
Subject: New Jersey/Mid-Atlantic/Environment & Ecology/Recreation
Cloth ISBN 0-8135-2791-0
Paperback ISBN 0-8135-2766-X
Pages: 272 pp., 100 b&w illus., 3 maps
Description: A guidebook to the 25 most impressive nature spectacles in New Jersey organized by season to ensure the best viewing

TO OBTAIN: Call Rutgers Univ. Press 1 800 446-9323

BUTTERFLIES OF NEW JERSEY: A Guide to their Status, Distribution, Conservation and Appreciation

by Michael Gochfeld and J. Burger. Rutgers University Press (1997). 

to Obtain

Checklist of New Jersey Butterflies




by J. Burger. Rutgers University Press (1997) 


Biology of Marine Birds. Edited by E.A. Schreiber and Joanna Burger. CRC Press 2001.

Biology of Marine Birds
Schreiber; Elizabeth A     Burger; Joanna                
ISBN/ISSN: 0849398827   Published: 8/14/2001    Price: $79.95



Protecting the Commons:

 A Framework for Resource Management in the Americas
by Joanna Burger (Editor), et al



Animals in Towns and Cities (Redington Field Guides to Biological Interactions)

Binding: Softcover
Publisher: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company
Date Published: 1998
ISBN-13: 9780787254704
ISBN: 0787254703
Description: Fine. 0787254703. "Increasingly, in our urbanized society, we have come to think of nature as existing somewhere else, in faraway wilderness areas...information on many diverse organisms, from ants to alligators, from bats to bullfrogs, and from wild turkeys to woodchucks...."; 8vo; 679 pp.
Languages: English
Alibris ID: 8222377626



 Stakeholders and Scientists: Achieving Implementable Solutions to Energy and Environmental Issues.    J. Burger, editor



Binding: Hardcover

Publisher: Springer, New York, New York.

Date Published: 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4419-8812-1

Description: Science and Stakeholders provides a conceptual framework for stakeholder involvement, followed by case studies to explore how to integrate and collaborate among diverse stakeholders and communities to solve environmental and energy-related problems.  Stakeholder participation should result in more transparent and acceptable solutions that protect both human and ecological health. Many of the chapters are about place-based environmental management, but all of the chapters deal with how stakeholders have improved (or failed to improve) decision-making processes. The final chapters discuss the role of communication and the media, and a synthesis of stakeholder participation

Language: English

   The Northern Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) in New Jersey: Its Life History, Behavior and Conservation.

Binding: Softcover
Publisher: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. New York
Date Published: 2011
ISBN-10: 161209452X
At the northern limit of their range, the Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) is listed as a threatened species by the state of New Jersey. They occur in the southern portion of the state in an area known as the Pine Barrens, where they are isolated from other conspecifics much farther south in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and the Carolinas. The major threat that Pine Snakes face throughout their range is habitat loss. Measures to protect Pine Snakes are discussed in this book, particularly habitat protection, enhancement of known nesting areas, construction of hibernacula and protection of nesting and hibernation habitats from off-road vehicles



Life Along the Delaware Bay: Cape May, Gateway to a Million Shorebirds  Joanna Burger, Larry Niles, Amanda Dey, Jan Van De Kam

Binding: Hardcover
Publisher: Rivergate Books
Date Published: 2012
ISBN-10: 081355246X

The Delaware Bay is the second largest and most diverse bay on the East Coast. It has a rich cultural history, has played an important role in the regionís commerce and tourism, and has spectacular and vital natural resources. Birdwatchers gather along its shores to watch the spectacle of thousands of spawning horseshoe crabs, the dense flocks of migrant shorebirds, the fall hawk migration, and the huge migration of monarch butterflies. Life Along the Delaware Bay focuses on the area as an ecosystem, the horseshoe crab as a keystone species within that system, and the crucial role that the bay plays in the migratory ecology of shorebirds. An abundance of horseshoe crabs spawning on the Delaware Bay beaches results in an abundance of eggs brought to the surface, providing a source of high-quality food and bringing hundreds of thousands of shorebirds to the bay to forage in late May and early June. A dramatic decline in horseshoe crabs has resulted in a rapid and dramatic decline in birds, particularly the red knot. This decline has sounded an alarm throughout the world, prompting a host of biologists to converge on the bay each spring, to understand the biology and conservation of red knots and other shorebirds. 



People in her lab







Christian Jeitner

Taryn Pittfield


Jeremy Feinberg




Fred Lesser




Technicians Mark Donio  
Back to Top





The National Academy of Sciences




Last revised by Taryn Pittfield 3/2012