Susanne Marczak serves San Diego Zoo Global as a Senior Research Associate in Recovery Ecology. Her work involves coordinating burrowing owl habitat and grassland research in San Diego County. She is interested in integrating research on animal behavior and habitat usage to help inform conservation and management decisions for native species within an evolutionary and ecosystem context.
Susanne’s primary research project focuses on California ground squirrels and western burrowing owls in San Diego County grasslands. Current burrowing owl management strategies involve the installation of artificial burrows, which require regular maintenance to ensure continued suitability for owl nesting. A better strategy to potentially provide more sustainable nesting habitat for burrowing owls may be to protect and manage existing grasslands such that they encourage the presence and persistence of ground squirrels, which play a key role in creating and maintaining habitat for owls. Extensive vegetation surveys and soil analyses of grasslands and known burrowing owl nesting sites, combined with landscape level GIS analyses, are providing critical insight into selecting sites that could best support both ground squirrels and burrowing owls.
Suzanne earned bachelor’s degrees in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution and Economics from University of California, Los Angeles. During this time, she conducted bioacoustics research on tropical frogs species in Central America, investigating the influence of neighbor proximity and anthropogenic noise on frog calls. Prior to joining the Institute in 2009, Susanne worked for the U.S. Geological Survey examining movement patterns and habitat associations of giant garter snakes in the California Central Valley, and assisted with collection inventory at the San Diego Natural History Museum Herpetology Department. Susanne credits her career in wildlife studies to her participation in an undergraduate field biology course, and seeks to encourage the next generation of biologists to experience conducting research outdoors.