Karen MM Steensma, M.Sc.

Professor of Biology; Co-Chair, Department of Geography & Environment

“My work centers around food chains: who eats who? Where? Why?”

Professor Steensma is a wildlife/marine biologist and a life-long dairy farmer.  Her primary teaching responsibilities include vertebrate and invertebrate zoology, ecology, conservation biology, agroecology, marine ecology, and coral reef ecology. She advises pre-veterinary, wildlife biology, and marine biology students. In addition to TWU, she has taught in Washington State, Hawaii, Belize, and Western Samoa. Her research focus is the intersection between agriculture and wildlife, sustainability of food systems, and watershed health in both temperate and tropical ecosystems. Primary work from her lab has included place-based investigations of native species such as molluscs (Oregon forest snail) and birds (American kestrel falcons, Hawaiian short-eared owls) as well as impact of invasive species (European starlings, axis deer) on fruit crops, dairy farms, and beef ranches. Her research collaborators include TWU students and faculty members, agricultural and environmental scientists, and faculty and graduate students at Washington State University, University of Hawaii, Michigan State University, and the US National Wildlife Research Center.  Primary research funding has come from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Environment Canada, the World Wildlife Fund, and the US Department of Agriculture.  Professor Steensma is married with 4 adult children who are all involved in the family’s pasture-based farm near Lynden, Washington.  The farm is home to 5 domesticated species of animals, at least 100 species of wild vertebrate animals, and countless species of wild invertebrates.

M.Sc., Biology, Western Washington University

B.Sc., Biology, Washington State University


  • Oregon forest snail (Allogona townsendiana)
  • American kestrel (Falco sparverius)
  • Hawaiian short-eared owl (Asio flammeus sandwichensis)
  • bird damage to fruit
  • bovine-avian interactions
  • watershed impacts of agriculture
  • transboundary streams
  • economic impacts of wildlife damage
  • sustainable agriculture
  • food security
  • agro-biodiversity
  • ecosystem services

Awards & Honors

See Curriculum Vitae

Recent Publications

  1. Elser, JL, CA Lindell, KMM Steensma, PD Curtis, DK Leigh*, WF Siemer, JR Boulanger, SA Shwiff. 2019. Measuring bird damage to three fruit crops: a comparison of grower and field estimates.  Crop Protection 123:1-4.
  2. Elser, JL, AL Adams-Progar, KMM Steensma, TP Caskin, SR Kerr, SA Shwiff. 2019. Economic impacts of birds on dairies: Evidence from a survey of Washington dairy operators.  PLOS One Sept 2019: 12 pp. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222398
  3. Hannay, MB, JR Boulanger, PD Curtis, RA Eaton, BC Hawes, DK Leigh*, CA Rossetti, KMM Steensma, CA Lindell. 2019. Bird species and abundances in fruit crops and implications for bird management.  Crop Protection 120:43-49.
  4. Elser, J, A Adams-Progar, S Shwiff, KMM Steensma. 2018. The economic impact of bird damage to dairies.  Fort Collins, CO: USDA-APHIS Wildlife Research Center Fact Sheet, 2 pp.
  5. Bhusal, S, K Khanal, M Karkee, KMM Steensma, ME Taylor. 2018. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for mitigating bird damage in wine grapes. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Precision Agriculture, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 6 pp.
  6. Steensma, K, J Steensma, J DeJong, S Kerr, and J VanderVeen. 2017.  Natural predators as a means to limit wildlife damage at the dairy-fruit interface:  Final Report to United States Department of Agriculture on Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Farmer-Rancher Project FW 14-012.  35 pp.
  7. Timmer, D, J Steensma, K Steensma, J Korthuis. 2017.  Birds of prey and dairy farms.  Educational video prepared for farmers and general public as fulfillment of United States Department of Agriculture report on Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Farmer-Rancher Project FW 14-012.  Hosted by Washington State University College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnA5fFWmGUs.  3 minutes.
  8. Lindell, CA, KMM Steensma, PD Curtis, JR Boulanger, JE Carroll, C Burrows, DP Lusch, NL Rothwell, SL Wieferich, HM Henrichs, DK Leigh*, RA Eaton, and GM Linz. 2016.  Proportions of bird damage in tree fruits are higher in low-fruit-abundance contexts. Crop Protection 90:40-48.
  9. Steensma, K, C Lindell, D Leigh*, C Burrows, S Wieferich, E Zwamborn*. 2016. Bird damage to fruit crops: a comparison of several deterrent techniques. Proceedings Vertebrate Pest Conference 27:196-203 (solicited and peer-edited).
  10. Anderson, A, CA Lindell, KM Moxcey, WF Siemer, GM Linz, PD Curtis, JE Carroll, CL Burrows, JR Boulanger, KMM Steensma, SA Shwiff. 2013. Bird damage to select fruit crops: The cost of damage and the benefits of control in five states. Crop Protection 52:103-109.
  11. Steensma, KMM, DR Clements, JR Wood and B Lowe. 2013. Stewarding the gift of land:  Christian campuses as land management models. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 65:1-12.
  12. Edworthy, AB*, KMM Steensma, HM Zandberg*, and PL Lilley. 2012. Characterization of home range size and habitat use in an endangered land snail. Canadian Journal of Zoology 90:875-844.
  13. Steensma, KMM, PL Lilley, and HM Zandberg*. 2009. Life history and habitat requirements of the Oregon forestsnail, Allogona townsendiana, (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Pulmonata) in a British Columbia population. Invertebrate Biology 128(3):232-242.

*denotes TWU undergraduate or graduate involvement in publication