Guy Pe'er

Guy Pe'erIn the field


Guy Pe’er, PhD

            Former Post-Doctorate Fellow 2005-2006


Current address:

Department of Ecological Modelling
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Permoserstr. 15, Leipzig, Germany
Phone: +49-341-2352033

Fax:  +49-341-2353500


Date of birth: 3.6.75

Place of birth: Haifa, Israel.

Research approach
Academic history and Projects
Personal interests

As a child growing up in Haifa, one learns to value nature and mountains. Thus, it is of no surprise that I spent most of my childhood outside - looking for insects and plants, or hiking all around the country. As a teenager, I tried to learn as much as possible about nature, but also about history. Later on I learned that these two can never be separated…

In 1987 I started collecting butterflies. As my interest in butterflies continued to grow, my tendency to collect them diminished. At some point I realized that butterflies can serve as an excellent group for addressing a great variety of ecological issues. Since then, butterflies serve as a major focal group in my research.

In 1989 there were three forest fires on Mt. Carmel. These fires ignited not only the trees, but also my own will to contribute to nature conservation. So I spent 12 months studying the recovery process of plants after fire. I spent 15 more months studying the behavior and ecology of the re-introduced Persian Fellow-deer at “Hai-Bar Carmel”. In parallel, I tried to ‘investigate’ the spatio-temporal dynamics of a common butterfly species, Lampides boeticus. During this period I learned about the importance of disturbances for biodiversity; about local and regional extinctions due to human activities; and about the factors that determine the success and failure of reintroductions – both natural ones (through dispersal) and man-made. By that time, at the age of 18, I knew that I would become an ecologist…


My interest in nature conservation guides me throughout my personal and academic activities. In my work, I try to obtain better understanding of the factors that determine population dynamics and biodiversity patterns in fragmented and human-dominated landscapes. I then develop tools for predicting those patterns, with the aim to develop scientific-based tools for conservation. Lastly, I try to use this knowledge for promoting nature conservation in Israel and abroad.


Research approach

In my research I try to link different ecological levels: animal behavior, population (and metapopulation) dynamics, community structures and biodiversity patterns. I continuously combine simulation models with field experiments, for a better understanding of nature as well as for deriving practical tools for conservation. While butterflies are a major study organism, I studied also mammalian predators (Eurasian Lynx) and plants (Acacia trees). Currently I am focusing on birds of the Atlantic forest.


Academic history and research projects

During my B.Sc. at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1996-1998) I performed a research project on the “Effect of aquifer depletion on mortality of Acacia trees in the Arava valley, Israel – a computerized analysis of aerial photographs” (supervisor: Prof. Ronen Kadmon).


During my direct studies for a Ph.D. (1999-2003) at the Ben-Gurion University I studied “the spatial and behavioral determinants of butterfly movement patterns in topographically complex landscapes” (available online, UFZ-Bericht Nr. 17/2004). Here, I investigated the movement rules of butterflies while ascending to hilltops for the purpose of mating (a process known as “hilltopping”). I then used these rules for developing an Individual-Based simulation model of this behavior, aiming to predict movement patterns and connectivity in complex landscapes. I then validated the model by further fieldwork.

My PhD was supervised by Prof. David Saltz (Ben-Gurion University) and Prof. Uzi Motro (Hebrew University). Part of my PhD was performed at the Dept. of Ecological Modelling, UFZ-Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig - under the supervision of Dr. Karin Frank and in collaboration with Drs. Hans-Hermann Thulke and Simone Heinz.


In 2004 I served as a visiting researcher at the dept. of Ecological Modelling, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Leipzig (Germany). Here I was engaged with three projects:

1.     The ecology of the endangered butterfly Tomares nesimachus – an endangered species in Israel. In a two-year field-study (2004-2005), I investigated the causes for the butterfly’s scarcity, including habitat loss, fragmentation, landscape management and the functioning of its ecological system (in terms of pollination). Work was conducted in collaboration with Prof. Josef Settele (Dept. of Community Ecology, UFZ).

2.     Developing a protocol for modelling animal dispersal through landscapes with gradual changes. Here, I collaborated  with Dr. Stephanie Kramer-Schadt in the further development of an existing model (developed by herself) for the  dispersal of Eurasian Lynx in Germany.

3.     The relevance of metapopulation theory for plants with seed dormancy. Here I developed a model that enables seeking for ‘optimal strategies’ in terms of germinating or remaining dormant, under a variety of climatic scenarios and evolutionary constraints. Various impacts of climate change can then be incorporated into the model.


In 2005-2006 I performed a post-doctorate research at the Biodiversity Research Group. Here I was engaged with two main projects:

1.     Community changes and biodiversity patterns along the altitudinal gradients in the Hermon mountain (ongoing project, in collaboration with Dr. Salit Kark and M.Sc student Oded Levanoni).

2.     Linking movement behaviour with biodiversity patterns, focusing on butterflies in agricultural landscapes along the climatic gradient of Israel (2005-2006), in collaboration with Dr. Salit Kark and Mr. Dubi Benyamini. Funded by Keren Yad-Hanadiv (Nekudat Chen), the project aimed at inspecting changes in species diversity over two scales. In the local scale, we looked at changes in animal behavior and diversity along the distance from natural areas, through field-edges and into the fields. In the regional scale, we inspected how patterns change across the climatic gradient of Israel.

Tomares nesimachus


Since the beginning of 2007 I am performing another post-doctorate at the Dept. of Ecological ModellingHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Leipzig, Germany. Here I am working towards developing a connectivity model for birds of the Atlantic forest in Brazil, within the Brazilian-German co-operation program "Science and Technology for the Mata Atlantica". The model aims to provide a better understanding of the impacts of habitat loss and fragmentation on various bird species, taking into consideration different ecological requirements and functional responses to these processes.



Pe’er, G., D. Saltz, H.–H. Thulke, and U. Motro (2004). Response to topography in a hilltopping butterfly and implications for modelling non-random dispersal Animal Behaviour, 68: 825-839.

Pe’er, G., D. Saltz, and K., Frank (2005). Virtual Corridors for conservation management. Conservation Biology, in press.

Pe’er, G., S. K. Heinz, and K. Frank. (2006) Connectivity in heterogeneous landscapes: analyzing the effect of topography. Landscape Ecology 21: 47-61.

Grimm, V., U. Berger, F. Bastiansen, S. Eliassen, V. Ginot, J. Giske, J. Goss-Custard, T. Grand, S. Heinz, G. Huse, A. Huth, J. U. Jepsen, C. Jørgensen, W. M. Mooij, B. Müller, G. Pe’er, C. Piou, S. F. Railsback, A. M. Robbins, M. M. Robbins, E. Rossmanith, N. Rüger, E. Strand, S. Souissi, R. Stillmann, R. Vabø, U. Visser, and D. L. DeAngelis (2006). A standard protocol of describing individual-based and agent-based models. Ecological Modelling, 198: 115-126.

Russel, P., W.J. Tennent, J. Pateman, Z.S. Varga, D. Benyamini, G. Pe'er, Z. Balint and M. Gascoigne-Pees (In Press) Further investigations into Melitaea telona Fruhstorfer 1908 (= ogygia Fruhstorfer, 1908; = emipunica Verity, 1919) with observations on biology and distribution (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Entomologist's Gazette, in press.

Pe’er, G., H.-H. Thulke, K. Frank, C. Wissel and D. Saltz (submitted). Emergent optimality: simple rules for animal movements in complex landscapes. Under revision to: The American Naturalist.

Pe’er, G. and Kramer-Schadt, S. (submitted) Incorporating animals' preceptual ranges into connectivity models. Submitted to: Ecological Modelling.

Pe'er, G. and J. Settele (Submitted) The rare butterfly Tomares nesimachus (Lycaenidae) as a bioindicator for pollination services and ecosystem functioning in the North of Israel. Submitted to Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution.

Pe'er, G.  and D. Benyamini (Submitted) A new template for publishing conservation case studies, exemplified through the campaign for butterfly protection in Israel. Submitted to Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution.


Tzoar, A., U. Ramon, M. Ron, A. Dolev, I. Tzurim, N. Sapir, D. Alon, D. Hawlena, G. Pe’er, N. Levin, and A. Heler (2002). Lahav survey: integration of botanical, zoological, and socio-historic data for the assessment of landscape sensitivity to afforestation and land-use changes. Survey and Evaluation Unit of the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, Jerusalem (in Hebrew). 

Pe’er, G. and U. N. Safriel (2000). Impact, Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Israel. Sde Boqer Campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sde Boqer (available online).



Links to some conservation-related articles on butterflies (in Hebrew):

‘Haaretz’ 6/3/2005

‘MSN’ 12/4/2005  

‘Haaretz’ 10/6/2005

‘Ynet’ 16/6/2005

‘Ynet’ 30/6/2005


Personal interests and activities

·    Studying butterflies in Israel since 1987, and a member of the Israeli Lepidopterists’ Society since 1990. Lecturing and writing in this field. Present focus on promoting for the conservation of butterflies in Israel. In parallel I act for the systematic acquisition and computerization of observation-data.

·    Organizing and participating in environmental activities, including the promotion of environmental issues among politicians, decision-makers, and the public.

·    Engaged with various educational activities within the community level.

·    Photography – focusing on humans, nature, landscape and the interactions between the three.

·    Hiking and traveling in Israel and around the world. In my travels, I try to understand the link between human history, culture, and the fates of nature.

·    Dancing – Argentinean Tango, “Contact-improvisation”, ballroom dances and dance-theatre. Was a member of the Jerusalem Folklore Ensemble for two years, 1998-1999.


Guy Achziv

For a full Curriculum Vitae press here