Erik R. Olson

Associate Professor of Natural Resources

Erik Olson faculty headshot
Office:Center for Science and the Environment 139
Email:Send a message...


Earned and Honorary Degrees

PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
MS, University of Wisconsin-Madison
BS, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point


I enjoy spending time with my family and watching my kids explore the woods and waters of the north woods. I participate in any activity that gets me outside, but my favorite activities include: backpacking, hunting, canoeing, fishing, SUP surfing, wild ricing, mountain biking, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and hanging at the sugar camp with my family.

Why Northland?

The place, the people, the flora and fauna, and the interactions between the them - blended with the strong environmental liberal arts focus and hands-on learning environment - these traits make Northland a place to grow.


NRS 101 - Furbearer Ecology & Management
NRS 103 - Wolf Ecology & Conservation
NRS 104 - Carnivore Tracking
BIO 115 - Concepts of Biology
NRS 225 - Wildlife Field Techniques
BIO 234 - Ecology
NRS 348 - Wildlife Ecology & Management
NRS 365 - Conservation of Large Carnivores
NRS 464 - Wolf Ecology, Management, & Research
NRS 480 - Integrated Ecosystem Management


The focus of my research lab is broad and collaborative. We embrace applied research to support wildlife conservation and management (e.g., wolf-human conflicts; baseline data on the status of jaguars and other Costa Rican wildlife; human attitudes towards transient cougars) and we explore ecological theory to enhance our understanding of species and the systems they interact with (e.g., island biogeography theory in the Apostle Islands; optimal foraging theory of grey fox). While we take a pragmatic approach to our research – we keep our curiosity stoked, pushing the boundaries, asking questions, and learning new things with discovery science (e.g., discovery of fluorescent pink flying squirrels; boreal stonefly emergence patterns never observed before; the first study of grey tree frogs in trees). Students in my lab are expected to be hard workers and responsible scientists – responsible for data collection, entry, management, analysis, and interpretation. This takes time and commitment as students spend time entering and analyzing data while learning how to do wildlife science. Students in my research lab typically present their research in professional forums like conferences and sometimes my students produce technical reports or even author scientific peer-reviewed papers. Currently, my research lab is focusing on three projects: 1) Canopy Ecology of Temperate Forests – a project examining the habitat-use of the upper canopy, 2) JaguarOsa – a long-term wildlife monitoring project in two Costa Rican National Parks, and 3) Great Lakes Island Ecology - focusing on the ecology of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore archipelago. Additionally, carnivore conservation and ecology, more broadly, is an overarching topical area of my research interests, especially wolf ecology and conservation in the Great Lakes region.

I enjoy involving students in my research, as well as, mentoring students in their own independent research projects.

Selection of Peer-reviewed Journal Publications
(*indicates one of my research lab students)

*Laughlin, M.M., J.G. Martin, Olson E.R. 2020. Arboreal camera trapping reveals seasonal arboreal behavior of Peromyscus leucopus and Peromyscus maniculatus in northern Wisconsin, USA. American Midland Naturalist. 183:210-222.

*O’Gara, J.R., *Wieder, C.A., *Mallinger, E.C., *Simon, A.N., Wydeven, A.P., Olson, E.R. 2020. Efficacy of acoustic triangulation for Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). Wildlife Society Bulletin. DOI: 10.1002/wsb.1089.

*Beattie, K., Olson, E.R., Kissui, B., Kirchbaum, A., Kiffner, C. 2020. Predicting human-lion conflict in northern Tanzania. European Journal of Wildlife Research. 66:11.

Olson, E.R., Saborío, G., Salazar, J.C. 2019. Age of the jaguar: A unique approach to evaluating the lifespan of a rare carnivore. Cat News. 70: 36-38.

Olson, E.R., Van Deelen, T.R., Wydeven, A.P., MacFarland, D.M., Ruid, D.B., Ventura, S.J. 2019. A landscape of overlapping risks for wolf-human conflict in Wisconsin, USA. Journal of Environmental Management. 248: 109307.

Olson, E.R., Van Deelen, T., and Ventura, S.J. 2019. Variation in anti-predator behaviors of white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus in a multi-predator system. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 97: 1030-1041.

*Hoff, H.K., Martin, J.G., Liesch, P.J., Olson, E.R. 2019. Acroneuria lycorias (Boreal Stonefly, Plecoptera: Perlidae) emergence behaviors discovered in Pinus strobus canopy. The Great Lakes Entomologist. 52(1): 53-56.

Olson, E.R., *Matzinger, P.J., Saborío, G., Salazar, J.C. 2019. Macho Uno: A sign of hope for the jaguars of Corcovado. Cat News. 69: 4-6.

Student Involvement

Although my travels have exposed me to many beautiful landscapes and cultures, my roots run deep in northern Wisconsin. From childhood to present, the woods, streams, wetlands, lakes, and prairies of Wisconsin have been my classroom. I am excited to have the opportunity to share my love of science and the north woods with the students of Northland College. As an ecologist, I enjoy interacting with students as they make observations and develop questions and theories on how the world works. I like to expose students to the scientific method and scientific concepts and theories through applied, interactive, and reflective learning.

As an ecologist trained in interdisciplinary scholarship, I believe it is important to introduce students to useful tools from other disciplines and to expose students to multiple paradigms. Thus, I cover some of the basics of statistics, social science, communications, political ecology, and geographic information systems science in labs and lectures.

Feel free to contact me for more information on my teaching philosophy and background.


I enjoy being with my family and watching my children explore the woods and waters of the north woods. I participate in any activity that gets me outside, but my favorite activities include: backpacking, hunting, canoeing, rock and ice climbing, fishing, wild ricing, and hanging at the sugar camp with my family.