Dr. Motti Charter

The Charter Group for Wildlife Ecology
Also lectures at: Senior Lecturer at the Department of Department Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa.
Research Interests
Selected Publications
  1. Wildlife ecology
  2. Wildlife management
  3. Ornithology
  4. Ecosystem services
  5. Citizen science

Current Research Projects

Barn owl ecology and rodent control 
Our group studies how barn owls can be used to control rodent pests as part of an integrated pest management in agriculture. Barn owl are exceptional model species to work on due the ease of capture, ability to study diet (pellets analysis, cameras), and nest boxes use. We study how barn owl breeding success is affected by nest location, microclimate, climate, human disturbance, habitat type, parent morphology, nest size, rodenticide use, and diet. Here we combine both low and high tech methods (drones, tracking devices etc) in both observational (large samples size) data from the thousands of nest boxes located throughout Israel and experimental designs by manipulating nest boxes location, size, prey, and human disturbance. The study is funded by the KKL and the Ministry of Science.

Great tits and insect pests
Coddling moths (Cydia pomonella) is one of the main pest in apple orchard in the world and especially in Israel. During the last years coddling moth has been responsible for a large percentage of crop damage and therefore farmers have invested 54-73% of yearly budgets on pest control to try to reduce the coddling moth damage. We are studying to determine whether great tit (Parus major) can be used as a biological pest control agent of coddling moth. The study is funded by the Ministry of Science. (Photo: Amir Ezer)

Drones and rodents
We are studying to determine how use drone to monitor both rodent numbers and damage in agriculture in the Hula Valley. Rodents and in particular Günther vole (Microtus socialis guentheri) are very common pests in agricultural crop fields throughout the Middle East and especially in Israel. Currently farmers use a combination of rodenticides, natural predators and mechanical flooding in attempt to control vole damage but are unsuccessful in finding the proper regime to control, have no system to of monitoring fields for voles and therefore suffer significant damage in many crops. Here we use a novel project of using precision agriculture to determine when and where to control for voles in real time. The study is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and is in cooperation with Dr. Dan Malkinson, Prof. Ido Izhaki, Dr Anna Brook, and Dor Keshet (MSc student)

Citizen science study on the diet of barn owls in Israel
Barn owls are used as biological pest control agents in Israel to reduce pesticide use and assist farmers. We study the diet of barn owls in Israel not only to make sure that barn owls are predating only on agricultural rodent pest species but also to study the regional and annual variation of barn owl diet throughout Israel. In the past we studied the diet only at the academic level and now we want to incorporate middle and high school students in Israel that will lead the study (Citizen Science). Our citizen science project has reaches more than 1,500 middle and high school student a year in over 80 schools. This project is funded by the US Embassy in Israel.

Nest-site competition between invasive and native cavity nesting birds
There is an ongoing discussion on whether invasive cavity nesting birds restrict the breeding of native species by exploiting the limited resource (nest cavities) (exploitation competition) and by directly usurping cavities already occupied by the native species (interference competition). Specifically, we are studying whether the common myna (Acridotheres tristis) limits the breeding of native species (great tits Parus major and house sparrows Passer domesticus).

Wildlife agriculture conflicts: case study crane management in the Hula Valley
Common crane numbers have increased greatly since the mid 1990’s in the Hula Valley. With the increase of crane number so too has damage to agricultural crops. In order to solve the conflict a unique project led by growers (including farmers association), NGO'S (Society for the Protection of Nature and JNF/KKL), local business (Agamon HaHula), governmental ministries, and local municipalities (Galil Elion) that combines chasing cranes from fields and feeding in an allocated field. We are studying how crane numbers affects the costs of the project and increases ecotourism. In addition, incorporation with Assaf Chen from Migal, we are also are studying whether drones can be used to both monitor crane numbers and whether drones can be used to monitor crane damage to fields. (Photo: Amir Ezer)

Three decades of satisfied Israeli farmers: Barn owls (Tyto alba) as biological pest control of rodents

Vertebrate Pest Conference 28: 198-207.

Peleg O., Nir S. , Roulin A., Leshem Y, Meyrom K, Shaul A, Izhaki I , and. M. Charter M. 2019
“Nature Knows No Boundaries”: The role of nature conservation in peacebuilding

Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32: 305-310.

Roulin A., Mansour AR, Spiegel B., Charter M., Dreiss A., and Y Leshem. 2017
Nest-site competition between invasive and native cavity nesting birds and its implication for conservation

Journal of Environmental Management 181:129–134

Charter, M., Izhaki, I., Ben Mocha and S. Kark 2016
Relationship between barn owl diet and reproductive success in the Middle East

Journal of Arid Environments. 122: 59–63

Charter M., Izhaki I., Leshem, Y., Meyrom K., and A Roulin 2015
Asymmetric seasonal nest site competition between Great Tit and House Sparrows

Journal of Ornithology 154:173–181

Charter M., Izhaki, I., Leshem Y. 2013
Similar patterns of local barn owl adaptation in the Middle East and Europe with respect to melanic coloration

Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 106:447–454

Charter M., Peleg O., Leshem Y. and A Roulin 2012

Noah Zeevi

Group technician, responsible for coordinating research studies both in the lab and in the field.

Dor Keshet

MSc student of University of Haifa, co-supervised by Prof. Ido Izhaki and Dr. Dan Malkinson. Studies the effect of farming practices, predators and rodenticides on rodent populations in agriculture.

Dana Klein

Responsible for education, citizen science, and outreach projects

Daniel Sailer

Field technician in charge of building and assembling research devices and field work.

Ela Avidor

Responsible for using great tits in biological pest control of coddling moth study.