Brian McGill

Research Interests

  • Global Change
  • Biodiversity
  • Large Scale Ecology
  • Decision Support Systems in Stakeholder Engagement
  • Sustainability Science

Research Project

  • New England Sustainability Consortium: Safe Beaches & Shellfish Beds
  • Integrating Global Species Distribution Data

Student Opportunities:

Changes frequently – Contact Dr. McGill


  • BIO 205 Natural History of Maine
  • BIO 597 Advanced Biometry for Environmental Science
  • BIO 525 Community Ecology
  • EES 590 Readings in Sustainability Science
  • EES 597 Boundary Spanning for Sustainability Solutions
  • EES 597 Ecology and Evolution of Everything


  • Michigan State University, NSF Interdisciplinary Informatics Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • University of Arizona, Ph.D. (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
  • Harvard University, A.B. (Mathematics)


Brian McGill is a macroecologist and faculty member at the University of Maine. His research examines how human-caused global change, especially global warming and land cover change, affect communities, biodiversity, and global ecology. The goal of McGill’s work is to understand the patterns and processes controlling the distribution and abundance of organisms at medium to large scales in order to develop more predictive theories of distribution and abundance. McGill’s current projects pertain to biodiversity at large scales – large areas of space, long periods of time, and many species. He studies species-specific trait information using advanced regression and spatial and temporal statistical methods to analyze the data. His Maine-specific research seeks to understand how climate change is going to affect the plants, animals, and crops in the state. In the short term, one question his work is addressing is whether or not potatoes and blueberries will continue to grow in Maine’s climate.

McGill’s SSI project aims to address diverse stakeholders’ questions about the effects of climate change on key organisms in Maine in order to help stakeholders better plan for the future. His team has organized a workshop with more than 15 stakeholders, including disease specialists, foresters, park managers, state wildlife managers, conservation organizations, and representatives from the tourism and outdoor recreation industries to identify their primary questions about climate change. In addition to building computer models that explore the role of land-use change on climate driven migrations, the researchers will use a variety of methods to address stakeholders’ information needs.

McGill’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Canadian Fund For Innovation, iPlant, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the Senator George J. Mitchell Center and Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, and Maine EPSCoR.

His work has been published in several peer reviewed journals including the American Journal of Botany, Biodiversity and Conservation, Ecological Informatics, Ecology, Ecosystems, Journal of Plant Ecology, Philosophy of Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and Oikos. He is the author of multiple book chapters on biodiversity, species abundance distribution, and spatial statistics.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles:

Lazarus, Elijah; Brian McGill. “Pushing the pace of tree species migration” – (PLOS One 2014 9(8): e105380. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105380)

McGill, Brian J; Maria A Dornelas; Nicholas J Gotelli; Anne E. Magurran “15 forms of biodiversity trends in the Anthropocene” (Trends in Ecology and Evolution 2015 30(2):104-113)

Dornelas, Maria; Nicholas J. Gotelli; Brian McGill; Hideyasu Shimadzu; Faye Moyes; Caya Sievers; Anne E. Magurran. “Assemblage Time Series Reveal Biodiversity Change but Not Systematic Loss” (Science 2014 344(18 Apr):296-299)

Dalby, Lars; Brian J. McGill; Fox, Anthony David; Svenning; Jens-Christian. “’Seasonality drives global-scale diversity patterns in waterfowl (Anseriformes) via temporal niche exploitation” (Global Ecology and Biogeography 2014 231(5):550-562)

Colgan, Charles; Malcolm Hunter, Brian McGill, Aaron Weiskittel, “Managing the middle ground: Forests in the transition zone between cities and remote areas” (Landscape Ecology 2014 29:1133–1143)

Samson, J; Berteaux, D; McGill, Brian J. and Humphries, M. “Geographic disparities and moral hazards in the predicted impacts of climate change on human populations” (Global Ecology and Biogeography 2011) 20(4):532-544

Maria Dornelas, Anne E Magurran, Stephen T Buckland, Anne Chao, Robin L Chazdon, Robert K Colwell, Tom Curtis, Kevin J Gaston, Nicholas J Gotelli, Matthew A Kosnik, Brian McGill, Jenny L McCune, Hélène Morlon, Peter J Mumby, Lise Øvreås, Angelika Studeny, and Mark Vellend. “Quantifying temporal change in biodiversity: challenges and opportunities,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Volume 280, Issue 1750 (2012).

Catherine M. Hulshof, Cyrille Violle, Marko J. Spasojevic, Brian McGill, Ellen Damschen,

Susan Harrison, and Brian J. Enquist. “Intra-specific and inter-specific variation in specific leaf area reveal the importance of abiotic and biotic drivers of species diversity across elevation and latitude,” Journal of Vegetation Science, Article first published online: 28 JAN 2013

Cyrille Violle, Brian J. Enquist, Brian J. McGill, Lin Jiang, Cécile H. Albert, Catherine Hulshof,

Vincent Jung, and Julie Messier. “The return of the variance: intraspecific variability in community ecology,“  Trends in Ecology and Evolution Volume 27, Issue 4 (2012): 244–252.

Sergio Estrada-Villegas, Brian J. McGill, and Elisabeth K. V. Kalko. “Climate, habitat, and species interactions at different scales determine the structure of a Neotropical bat community,“ Ecology 93 (2012):1183–1193.

Book Chapters:

Brian McGill, “A macroecological approach to the equilibrial vs. nonequilibrial debate using bird populations and communities” In The Balance of Nature and Human Impacts, ed. Klaus Rohde (Cambridge United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 103-118.

Software Programs:

2011 Palamedes (a variety of tools for exploring species abundance distributions) (currently by email to author, to be published on web).

2006 A numerical solution to the analytical form of the zero sum multinomial (available at

2003 Monte Carlo simulation of neutral communities for the estimation of parameters (Available at

2004 Matlab dataframe (implements R-like data frames and models in Matlab) (