Jeff Smith

PhD Candidate

I started in the PhD program here at UW in the fall of 2010 working with Dee Boersma in the Biology Department and Aaron Wirsing in the School of Forest Resources. I grew up in Missoula, Montana where I spent much of my childhood camping, backpacking, fishing, and whitewater rafting. I am guessing that much of this time outdoors has pushed me toward my current fascination in field ecology. I graduated from UW in 2006 with a degree in General Biology and a minor in Anthropology. I then volunteered and worked for the Magellanic Penguin Project from August 2006 to April of 2009 spending two full breeding seasons and part of a third at our field site at Punta Tombo, Chubut, Argentina. The remainder of the time not in the field I was in the lab entering and analyzing data and writing reports and papers. In April of 2009, I was offered a position working with Kay Holekamp and the Hyena Research Project in the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya which I did for ten months collecting data on the behavioral ecology of Spotted Hyenas and helping monitor prey populations and general ecosystem health. In February 2010, I left Kenya and returned to Argentina for a two month field season to finish collecting data on a project on molting in penguins. I am currently in the graduate program in the School of Forest Resources.

Research Interests: My research focus for my dissertation is one of both behavioral ecology of Magellanic Penguins and also predation pressure on penguins. I am interested in how differences in the levels of aggression between individual penguins affects things such as reproductive success, lifespan, etc. Individual differences in behavior, commonly termed personality or temperament, have recently become a topic of interest to behavioral ecologists and have been found in a wide variety of species. I am interested in establishing that penguins have “personalities” and what impact these have on breeding biology, settlement patterns, reproductive success, and fitness. Also, in, 2006 we first sighted a large species of fox in the colony and have subsequently seen a drastic increase in penguin mortalities. In 2009 we began to see signs of puma. Both species were not seen in this area in at least 30 years. I am intensively monitoring these mortalities to try and determine what contribution they will make to the already declining penguin population. While at UW, I also have earned a graduate certificate in environmental management after working on a project with several other graduate students at the request of and under the direction of NOAA about risks of transporting oil sands products out of the Athabasca region in Canada.


  • Smith, J.R., O.J. Kane, and P.D. Boersma. Culpeo fox (Lycalopex culpaeus) immigration to Punta Tombo, Argentina. Manuscript in prep.
  • Smith, J.R., O.J. Kane, J.A. Cerchiara, and P.D. Boersma. Boring is better: midly aggressive penguins fledge more chicks. Manuscript in prep.
  • Smith, J.R., O.J. Kane, J.A. Cerchiara, and P.D. Boersma. Aggression and parental investment in Magellanic penguins. Manuscript in prep.
  • Cerchiara, J.A., R. A. Risques, D. Prunkard, J.R. Smith, O.J. Kane, and P.D. Boersma. 2017. Telomeres shorten and then lengthen before fledging in Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). Aging 9: 1-7.
  • Cerchiara, J.A., R.A. Risques, D. Prunkard, J.R. Smith, O.J. Kane, and P.D. Boersma. 2017. Magellanic penguin telomeres do not shorten with age with increased reproductive effort, investment, and basal corticosterone. Ecology and Evolution 7: 5682-5691.
  • Boersma, D., P. Garcia Borgoroglu, E. Frere, O. Kane, L. M. Pozzi, K. Putz, A. Raya Rey, G. A. Rebstock, A. Simeone, J. Smith, P. Yorio, and A. Van Buren. Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). In Penguins: Natural History and Conservation. (ed. by Garcia Borboroglu, P. and P. D. Boersma ), University of Washington Press, Seattle. Published Winter 2013.
  • Crosby, S., R. Fay, C. Groark, A. Kani, J.R. Smith, T. Sullivan, and R. Pavia. 2013. Transporting Alberta Oil Sands Products: Defining the Issues and Assessing the Risks. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OR&R 44.
  • Frias, J.E., M.N. Gil, E.L. Jose, P.G. Borboroglu, O.J. Kane, J.R. Smith, P.D. Boersma. 2012. Mercury levels in feathers of Magellanic penguins. Marine Pollution Bulletin 64(6): 1265-1269.
  • Kane, O.J., J.R. Smith, P.D. Boersma, N.J. Parsons, V. Strauss, and C. Villanueva. 2010. Feather disorders in two Spheniscus penguin species. Waterbirds 33(3): 415-421.
  • Kane, O.J., M.M. Uhart, V. Rago, A.J. Pereda, J.R. Smith, A. Van Buren, J.A. Clark, and P.D. Boersma. Avian pox in Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus). Journal of Wildlife Disease 48(3): 790-794.