Senior Ecologist/Desert Tortoise Specialist
Michael Tuma joined the WEST team in 2015 as a Senior Ecologist to lead WEST’s presence in Southern California. Michael brings more than 25 years of experience as a professional scientist, including over 15 years as an environmental consultant in southern California. He adds to WEST’s natural resources strengths through his expertise in desert tortoise studies, and broad project management and technical experience as a wildlife biologist and a specialist in cultural and paleontological resources. He has developed diverse project experience throughout the American Southwest and across market sectors, including wind and solar energy development, energy generation and transmission, transportation, municipalities, and land and resource management agencies. He has a strong working knowledge of the Federal Endangered Species Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and other environmental laws that protect sensitive natural, cultural, and paleontological resources, as well as a deep understanding of the processes involved in complying with them. Michael is a Certified Wildlife Biologist© and has served in the capacity of Principal Investigator, Lead Biologist, and Authorized Biologist for numerous studies, surveys, and compliance programs overseen by numerous agencies. He is also a Registered Professional Archaeologist, holds additional certifications for conducting cultural resource studies, and has served as Principal Investigator on Bureau of Land Management Cultural Resources Use Permits and Fieldwork Authorizations.
Michael recently completed his Ph.D. in the Integrative and Evolutionary Biology program at the University of Southern California, where he investigated the evolution of body size, sexual size dimorphism, and male morphological weaponry in Agassiz’s desert tortoise and other North American tortoises for his dissertation research. He also holds an M.S. in Anthropology from the University of Southern Mississippi, an M.S. in Zoology from Eastern Illinois University, and a B.S. in Zoology from Truman State University. He is an expert in planning and implementing advanced field data collection techniques and methodologies during mitigation efforts and scientific studies of desert tortoises and other chelonians, including translocation, headstarting, radio telemetry, protocol health assessments, collection of blood and tissue samples, and radiography. He is a member of the Desert Tortoise Council’s Board of Directors, and currently serves as Chair Elect and Editor of the Desert Tortoise Council Newsletter. He also serves as Assistant Editor for the peer-reviewed journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology and has provided peer review for a number of other scientific journals.