Ben O’Neal, Ph.D.

“More than ever, our world needs scientists, conservationists, and citizens that have a deep passion for nature, a thorough understanding of complex systems, and a hunger to solve tough problems. I try to help my students grow in each of these areas every single day.”


Department Chair; Professor of Biology

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – Champaign, IL
  • M.Sc., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – Champaign, IL
  • B.A., Anderson University – Anderson, IN

Year Joined Franklin



wildlife conservation, avian ecology, waterfowl biology, migratory behavior, radar science

What do students that complete your ecology and conservation program go on to do?

Over the last 5 years, we have had students participate in studies here in Indiana and throughout the Midwest (Loons in Minnesota, Orchids at Hougham Woods, Deer at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, American cancer-root at Blossom Hollow Nature Preserve, Ducks in Illinois, Whales in Hawaii, and Geese in Indianapolis). All of these students get to help design the studies, conduct fieldwork, and present their findings in papers and at conferences.

Selected Professional Accomplishments

Selected Scholarship

  • Student Organization Adviser of the Year
  • Franklin College Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award
  • Rinker Faculty Excellence Award
  • Invited Member of the Science Team of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture

Co-authored research presentations with Franklin College students at:

  • Annual Conference of the Illinois Chapter of The Wildlife Society
  • Southern Indiana Conservation Conference
  • Kansas Natural Resources Conference
  • Annual Conference of the Indiana Chapter of The Wildlife Society
  • Indiana Academy of Science Annual Conference
  • International Meeting of The Waterbird Society, Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Annual Meeting of the Wildlife Society, Raleigh, North Carolina

Recent publications co-authored with Franklin College students:

Wesche, S. L., O’Neal, B. J., Windels, S. K., Olson, B. T., Larreur, M., and A. A. Ahlers. 2018. Influence of Invasive Hybrid Cattails on Resource Selection by Common Loons. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 42: 166-171.
O’Neal, B. J., Stafford, J. D., and R. P. Larkin. 2014. Migrating ducks in inland North America ignore major rivers as leading lines. IBIS: International Journal of Avian Science. 157:154-161.
Stodola, K., O’Neal, B., Alessi, M., Deppe, J., Dallas, T., Beveroth, T., Benson, T., and M. Ward. 2014. Stopover ecology of American golden-plovers (Pluvialis dominica) in Midwestern agricultural fields. The Condor: Ornithological Applications. 116:162-172.
O’Neal, B. J., Stafford, J. D., and R. P. Larkin. 2012. Stopover duration of fall-migrating dabbling ducks. Journal of Wildlife Management 76(2):285-293.
O’Neal, B. J., Stafford, J. D., and R. P. Larkin. 2010. Waterfowl on weather radar: Applying ground-truth to classify and quantify bird movements. Journal of Field Ornithology 81(1): 79-90.

Recent Grants

  • Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Movement and harvest of local mallards from urban environments of Indiana
  • Illinois Ornithological Society. Nesting ecology of marsh birds relative to vegetation and hydrology conditions
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Spatial ecology, harvest contribution, and natural history of mallards that breed in suburban/urban environments
  • Muscatatuck Wildlife Society. Abundance and demographics of white-tailed deer at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge
  • United States Department of Agriculture. Shorebird Conservation VIA Drainage Water Control. Regional Conservation Partnership Program
  • Hants Lake Conservancy Wetland Monitoring Grant. Heron Park Wetland Mitigation Monitoring

Invited Journal Referee

Bird Study, Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Hydrobiologia, Journal of Wildlife Management, Waterbirds, Applied Vegetation Science, Raffle’s Bulletin of Zoology, Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Journal of Field Ornithology, Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science, Journal of Environmental Management

What Students Say

“He knows his stuff and how to get and keep people interested. He planned an amazing trip for us to the Louisiana coast. It was so much fun and made me want to be a field biologist!” – Trey Thurson ’14, a student in Dr. O’Neal’s travel course to the Mississippi Delta

In My Spare Time…

In my spare time, I love spending time outdoors with family and friends, hunting, fishing, hiking, grilling and gardening.