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Charles "Billy" Gunnels, Ph.D.

Expert in animal behavior and urban ecology | Florida Gulf Coast University


Billy Gunnels examines the interaction between humans and animals.





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Billy Gunnels is a professor and chair of Florida Gulf Coast University's department of Biological Sciences.. Gunnels is a practicing biologist, and his inquiries include animal behavior and wildlife ecology. He is particularly interested in issues pertaining to social interactions between humans and wildlife. Gunnels has also published on the scholarship of teaching and learning, history and sociology, including a project that uses historical records to understand the biology of animals that lived in the recent past.

Areas of Expertise (13)

Animal Behavior

Urban Ecology

Wildlife Ecology

Biological Stats


Tropical Ecology








Education (3)

University of Florida: Ph.D., Zoology 2006

Utah State University: M.S., Biology 1999

Skidmore College: B.S., Biology 1992

Affiliations (4)

  • Council of Undergraduate Research : Chair, Undergraduate Research Programs
  • Southwest Florida Frog Watch : Member
  • Raptors Research Foundation CREW Land and Water Trust : Trustee
  • Animal Behavior Society : Member

Languages (1)

  • English

Selected Media Appearances (17)

Family Spots Florida Panther Roaming in Backyard of SW Florida Home

NBC 6 Miami  tv


Billy Gunnels discusses the Florida panther population.

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Inactivity at Collier County beaches helping ecosystem heal

ABC7  tv


Billy Gunnels explains why wildlife was quick to return to Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian.

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Thousands of bees swarm porch light outside Cape Coral home

NBC2  tv


Billy Gunnels discusses the behavior of bees.

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Rare baby albino raccoon caught on camera in Golden Gate Estates

NBC2  tv


Dr. Gunnels shares his thoughts on a rare sighting in Southwest Florida.

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New safety measures installed to protect manatees at South Gulf Cove Lock

NBC2  tv


Billy Gunnels explains why it's so important to protect manatees after two were killed over the course of six months.

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Wasp-loving professor gets unique gift from former student

FGCU360.com  online


If someone named a wasp after you, you might consider it stinging commentary on their feelings about you. But when Dr. Billy Gunnels found out that a former student had done just that, he was thrilled.

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FGCU professor gets unusual gift from former student: a wasp named in his honor

NBC2  tv


Billy Gunnels discusses the naming of a wasp species in his honor.

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New video of Everglades Mink could be crucial in learning more about species

NBC2  tv


Dr. Gunnels talks about an elusive species.

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Bear's early-morning visit to Bonita Beach excites cautious onlookers

Naples Daily News  print


Billy Gunnels offers sound advice when dealing with bears.

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Florida manatees are dying at a rapid rate this year

NBC2  tv


Dr. Gunnels looks at the reasons why manatees are dying at an increased rate.

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Fishermen reel in bull shark on Naples beach

NBC2  tv


Dr. Gunnels offers facts about bull sharks.

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Fact Check: Can cooking spray, WD-40 really clean love bugs from your windshield?

ABC7  tv


Billy Gunnels discusses love bug season.

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Early sea turtle nesting season could be result of warmer Gulf waters

Naples Daily News  print


Billy Gunnels talks about nesting sea turtles and rising temperatures in Southwest Florida.

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All you wanted to know - or didn't - about rats

NBC2  tv


Billy Gunnels' insights are shared with the NBC2 audience.

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FGCU faculty, students take research on the road in storytelling tour

News-Press  print


Billy Gunnels explains the importance behind FGCU's Research Roadshow.

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FGCU turns research into performance at Research Roadshow

FGCU360.com  online


“The FGCU Research Roadshow is a one-of-a-kind event – something that no other university provides its community,” said Billy Gunnels, FGCU’s director of undergraduate research, who helped found the Research Roadshow.

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Coyote sightings in Cape Coral

Fox 4  tv


Billy Gunnels talks about the need to learn to live with coyotes.

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Selected Event Appearances (3)

Effect of Animal Views on Environmental Attitudes and Conservation Habits: Using cloud-sourced experiments to examine inconsistent influences of bias and evidence

Università degli Studi di Macerata  Macerata, Italy


Conflicting Influences of Animal Views and Evidence on Environmental Attitudes and Conservation Habits

Making Sense of the Animal – Human Bond and Relationship(s)  Oxford, United Kingdom


Zoology and Cultural History in the Galapagos Islands: A Methodological Reflection

American Society for Environmental History  Seattle, Washington


Selected Articles (4)

Movement pattern of the Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarcho couperi) in Southwest Florida

Herpetological Conservation and Biology

Metcalf MF, Gunnels CW, Everham EM, Andreadis P, & Herman J

2021 The Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) is a large, non-venomous snake endemic to the southeastern coastal plains of the U.S. that is federally listed as threatened because of habitat loss and fragmentation. To implement effective management strategies, we must better understand the life history and movement patterns of this species. Our understanding of D. couperi remains limited, however, as previous studies focused on central and northern populations. To address this knowledge gap, we used radio telemetry to study D. couperi detectability, home range size, seasonal variation, habitat preferences, and shelter use in southwest Florida. We conducted this study in Collier County, Florida, USA, an environment with comparatively stable year-round temperatures, higher hydrological variations, and expansive saline environments relative to other areas in the range of the species. These D. couperi were most active during midday hours (1000-1400) and breeding seasons (October-March). These snakes prioritized upland features dominated by Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows but would occasionally use wetland habitats including mangrove swamps. These snakes also maintained large annual home ranges (female mean = 110 ha; male range, 207-233 ha) similar to the most northern populations. Understanding the diverse behaviors of D. couperi is essential to the overall conservation of the species throughout its range. Current survey protocols, which encourage surveying snakes at sunrise and sunset during summer months, may not be appropriate for animals in southern Florida and could result in mismanagement of D. couperi if these patterns were replicated in similar locations.

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Campus as a living laboratory: conservation areas that create a community who then ensure its sustainability

Making the Sustainable University: Trials and Tribulations

Gunnels CW, Abercrombie M, Bovard B, Croshaw DA, Drummond JG, Everham EM, Hancock TG, Herman J, Jackueux M, Lefevre KL, Marcolini JP, McConnell V, Metcalf MF, Sanchez I, Thomas S, Walsh-Haney H, and Voytek M

2021 Since the founding of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in 1997, its campus—which has integrated urbanized development into extensive conservation areas—has been one of the school’s most unique and distinctive features. The university was constructed with the typical academic core, student housing, and athletic facilities making up the urbanized half of the campus. This area of urbanization was set within natural areas that are typical of southwest Florida, including upland forests and restored wetlands. Over time, these conservation areas would make up the other half of the campus. While the integration of human and non-human landscapes at FGCU attracted some students and faculty, these green spaces have had particularly dramatic influences on how many environmentally minded members of the campus community have taught and learned, conducted research, and performed service. Working in this “living laboratory” created a feedback loop ultimately, where these same individuals then initiated programs that ensured the continued use and protection of the campus conservation areas. Where FGCU’s focus on environmental sustainability promoted conditions for a living laboratory that bridged natural and human landscapes, the ability of a living laboratory to affect the academic and professional growth of personnel who then in turn worked to sustain the central feature of the living lab should be generalizable to the specific focus of any institution interested in developing a site-specific living laboratory.

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Teaching and evaluating skills for undergraduate research in the teacher education program

Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research

Szecsi T, Gunnels CW, Greene J, Johnston V, & Vazquez-Montilla E

2019 Teacher candidates have lower participation in under-graduate research than students in other disciplines. To enable teacher candidates to develop skills for scholarly activities and to engage them in research activities, teacher education programs utilize diverse approaches. This article describes a strategy to promote undergraduate research among teacher candidates using a systematic course-based infusion of skills necessary for undergraduate scholar-ship. In addition, it reports on the undergraduate students’ performance in research skills such as critical thinking, information literacy, and written communication in scholarly products over a three-year period. The results show an uneven but steady growth in research skills. Also dis-cussed are the course and curricular modifications used by instructors to promote skill development for undergraduate research related to teaching.

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Exploring early human-animal encounters in the Galapagos Islands using a historical zoology approach

The Historical Animal

Foote N & Gunnels CW

2015 This chapter uses the case-study of early human-animal encounters in the Galapagos Islands to articulate a new methodology for exploring animal history which we characterize as Historical Zoology. It argues that a historical zoology approach will elucidate new insights into animals by opening analytical spaces that dominant historical and scientific approaches to animal pasts typically cannot probe. History and zoology are rarely understood as interlocking disciplines, yet when their methodologies and sources are used in tandem, the realities of animals as historical subjects come more clearly into view.

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