Alan believes strongly in an interdisciplinary approach to academia and has undergraduate degrees in both Religion and Music Education. After his undergraduate training, Alan taught music in an Ozark Mountain public school system. He then spent several years performing nationally in theatre, opera, and musical comedy. Alan returned to school at the University of Michigan and obtained both an M.S. in Natural Resource Policy and a law degree (J.D.). Following a six-month stint studying endangered species law and policy in New Zealand and Australia, Alan joined a major Northwest law firm and began a land conservation law practice.
While in New Zealand, Alan encountered his first penguins – the yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes). He was never able to get the incredible vision of wild penguins or his childhood dream of studying birds out of his mind. And eventually hearing the call of the wild, Alan left his law practice and began studying Magellanci penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) for his Ph.D. dissertation under the guidance and direction of P. Dee Boersma (Homo sapiens) at the University of Washington, Department of Biology.
In addition, to his land conservation law practice, Alan has worked as a legal intern for both Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation, as a research fellow for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and as a visiting legal research fellow at the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand.
Alan’s dissertation research was primarily field-based and focused on the behavioral ecology of Magellanic penguins. In particular, Alan used playback experiments and observation to explore the role of vocalizations in individual recognition and assessing male quality, female mate choice, and social facilitation of breeding behavior. (See photos of Magellanic penguins)
As part of this research, Alan analyzed male display calls, pair duets, and colony sounds. Alan is interested not only in the function of calls, but also in the evolutionary relationship of calls within and between species. His research is focused on several scales ranging from individual choice to colony-wide patterns of behavior.
Alan finished his Ph.D. in 2006 and later completed a post-doctoral position with Sievert Rohwer at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum where he studied the vocalizations of several Pacific Northwest Dendroicawarblers in zones of hybridization and sympatry.
Although his primary focus is now behavioral ecology, Alan maintains strong connections to the fields of environmental law and natural resource policy. Because of Alan’s diverse, multi-disciplinary background, he continues to focus on the intersection of law, policy, and science in wildlife conservation issues. For example, articles Alan wrote on taxonomic bias in conservation research appeared both in Science(Clark and May 2002) and Conservation in Practice(Clark and May 2002).
Concurrently with his primary dissertation research on the behavioral ecology of Magellanic penguins, Alan was deeply involved in a joint project of the Society for Conservation Biology and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which conducted an analysis of U.S. Endangered Species Act recovery plans. Alan was lead author of the main summary paper from that meta analysis (Clark et al. 2002).
Most of Alan’s research is collaborative. In addition to collaborating with several of his colleagues at Fordham University, Alan collaborates with researchers at Cornell University, Fairfield University, University of Washington, SUNY-Oneonta, University of Waikato, Otago University, and Arizona State University. Alan also collaborates with institutional scientists including researchers at Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, American Museum of Natural History, New York City Audubon Society, Pennsylvania Audubon Society, and Wildlife Conservation Society.
In 2010, Alan was honored with an invitation to speak at Fordham’s Convocation Ceremony. Alan’s talk, entitled “Lives inTwo Parts,” was deeply personal and briefly describes his life journey to becoming a conservation biologist. (See “Lives in Two Parts,”19:42 - 32:39)
At Fordham, Alan teaches at both the Rose Hill campus in the Bronx and at the School of Law in Manhattan, including a mix of graduate and undergraduate courses:Biological Concepts, Conservation Biology, Ornithology, Conservation Law and Policy, Behavioral Ecology, Foundations of Biology.
Alan is also Program Coordinator for Fordham's Graduate Certificate in Conservation Biology. As part of his responsibilities, Alan recruits for the program, advises students, and helps develop individually-tailored practicum internships or research projects for each student.