Quantitative Ecologist
Quantitative Ecologist


Kate Buenau is a quantitative ecologist and modeler in the Coastal Sciences Division of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She joined PNNL in 2009 after completing a Ph.D. in ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Her experience includes assessing and modeling species-habitat relationships and species interactions in large rivers, estuaries, and nearshore habitats. Her work supports large-scale ecosystem restoration on the Missouri and Columbia rivers and Puget Sound, and conservation of a diverse range of species including shorebirds, fish, and seagrass. She also works on modeling environmental effects of marine energy development for the Triton project. She develops habitat and population models along with tools for decision support, risk management, and uncertainty quantification, and has worked extensively with resource managers and stakeholders to create and implement practical adaptive management.


  • PhD in Ecology & Evolution of Biology, University of California - Santa Barbara
  • BS in Science, Biology, Arizona State University



Diefenderfer HL, GD Steyer, MC Harwell, AJ LoSchiavo, HA Neckles, DM Burdick, GE Johnson, KE Buenau, E Trujillo, JC Callaway, RM Thom, NK Ganju, RR Twilley. 2020. Applying cumulative effects to strategically advance large-scale ecosystem restoration. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, doi:10.1002/fee.2274.


Thom RM, J Gaeckle, KE Buenau, AB Borde, J Vavrinec, LM Aston, and DL Woodruff, et al. 2018. Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) restoration in Puget Sound: development of a site suitability assessment process. Restoration Ecology. PNNL-SA-128364. doi:10.1111/rec.12702


Diefenderfer HL, GE Johnson, RM Thom, KE Buenau, LA Weitkamp, CM Woodley, AB Borde, and RK Kropp.  2016.  "Evidence-based evaluation of the cumulative effects of ecosystem restoration." Ecosphere 7(3):e01242.


Buenau KE, TH Hiller, and AJ Tyre. 2014. “Modeling the effects of river flow on population dynamics of piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) and least terns (Sternula antillarum) nesting on the Missouri River.” River Research and Applications 30(8):964-975. DOI: 10.1002/rra.2694.


Thom RM, HL Diefenderfer, JE Adkins, C Judd, MG Anderson, KE Buenau, AB Borde, and GE Johnson.  2011.  "Guidelines, processes and tools for coastal ecosystem restoration, with examples from the United States."  Plankton & Benthos Research 5(Supplement):185-201.  doi:10.3800/pbr.5.185


Buenau KE, NN Price, RM Nisbet. 2012. Size dependence, facilitation, and microhabitat mediate space competition between coral and crustose coralline algae in a spatially explicit model.  Ecological Modelling 237-238: 23-33.


Buenau KE, NN Price and RM Nisbet.  2011.  Local interactions drive size dependent space competition between coral and crustose coralline algae.  Oikos 120: 941-949.


Buenau KE, A Rassweiler, and RM Nisbet. 2007. The effects of landscape structure on space competition and alternative stable states.  Ecology 88(12): 3022-3031.


Buenau KE, LR Gerber.  2004.  Developing recovery and monitoring strategies for the endemic Mount Graham red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis) in Arizona.  Animal Conservation 7: 17-22.

Gerber LR, KE Buenau and GR VanBlaricom.  2004.  Density dependence and risk of extinction in a small population of sea otters.  Biodiversity and Conservation 13(14): 2741-2757.