The UConn Ornithology Group does research on a wide variety of topics, some of which are focused in individual labs, but many of which engage people in multiple labs (often with direct collaboration). Below are some of the main areas in which we work, with examples of the kind of studies that we do.
Several lab groups study the behavior of birds. The Elphick lab investigates the way that behavior affects vital rates and can influence species conservation, the Knutie lab studies the links between behavior and disease transmission, the Tingley lab is developing techniques for quantifying home range and movement patterns, and the Rubega lab studies the links between morphology and behavior.
- Borowske, A., C.R. Field, K.J. Ruskin, and C.S. Elphick. 2018. Consequences of breeding system for body condition and survival throughout the annual cycle of tidal marsh sparrows. Journal of Avian Biology 49:jav-01529.
- Knutie, S.A., S.M. McNew, A.W. Bartlow, D.A. Vargas, and D.H. Clayton. 2014. Darwin’s finches combat introduced nest parasites with fumigated cotton. Current Biology 24:R355-356.
- LaFleur, N., M. Rubega, and C.S. Elphick. 2007. Invasive fruits, novel foods, and choice: an investigation of European starling and American robin frugivory. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119:429-438.
Biomechanics & Functional Ecology
How birds are built, how that influences their function, and how that relates to their use of habitat is a central activity in some labs. The Rubega lab, in particular, focuses on feeding in birds, ranging from the mechanics of prey capture and to the role that vision plays in detecting and capture of prey. Research in the Tingley lab is focused on the physiological consequences of climate change for birds.
- Sustaita, D., M.A. Rubega, and S. Farabough. 2018. Come on baby, let’s do the twist: the kinematics of killing in loggerhead shrikes. Biology Letters 14:20180321.
- Rico Guevara, A. and M.A. Rubega. 2017. Functional morphology of hummingbird bill tips: their function as tongue wringers. Zoology 123:1-10.
- Burgio, K., M.A. Rubega, and D. Sustaita. 2014. Nest-building behavior of Monk Parakeets and insights into potential mechanisms for reducing damage to utility poles. PeerJ 2:e601.
A number of UCONN researchers are broadly interested in how bird communities are structured and change over time. The Tingley lab is leading several long-term studies of how bird communities respond to climate and to disturbance events like fire, with a strong focus on statistical models for understanding community shifts. The Elphick lab is studying bird communities in tidal marshes and fragmented forests, and the Hird lab is studying the ecology of the microbial communities that live on and in birds. Working with the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, UCONN is currently running the second Connecticut Bird Atlas, which seeks to understand how bird communities have changed over the last 35 years.
- Si, X., M.W. Cadotte, Y. Zhao, H. Zhou, D. Zeng, J. Li, T. Jin, P. Ren, Y. Wang, P. Ding, and M.W. Tingley. 2018. The importance of accounting for imperfect detection when estimating functional and phylogenetic community structure. Ecology 99:2103–2112.
- Srinivasan, U., P.R. Elsen, M.W. Tingley, and D.S. Wilcove. 2018. Temperature and competition interact to structure Himalayan bird communities. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285:20172593.
- Tingley, M.W., V. Ruiz-Gutierrez, R, Wilkerson, C. Howell, and R. Siegel. 2016. Pyrodiversity promotes avian diversity over the decade following forest fire. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283:20161703.
In additional to studying birds and their habitat, members of the group studies birds as habitat for other creates. The Hird lab interrogates many aspects of the ecology and evolution of the avian microbiome and the Knutie lab uses the microbiome to understand the causes and consequences of disease on avian health.
- Hird, S.M. 2017. Evolutionary biology needs wild microbiomes. Frontiers in Microbiology 8:725.
- Knutie, S.A. and K.M. Gotanda. 2018. A non-invasive method to collect fecal samples from wild birds for microbiome studies. Microbial Biology 76:851–855.
Population dynamics and the processes that affect them are central to work in several labs. For example, the Tingley lab studies woodpecker populations in California, the Elphick lab studies populations of several tidal marsh specialist birds, and the Knutie lab studies the population consequences of disease.
- Field, C.R., K.J. Ruskin, B. Benvenuti, A. Borowske, J.B. Cohen, L. Garey, T.P. Hodgman, R.A. Kern, E. King, A.R. Kocek, A.I. Kovach, K.M. O’Brien, B.J. Olsen, N. Pau, S.G. Roberts, E. Shelly, W.G. Shriver, J. Walsh, and C.S. Elphick. 2018. Quantifying the importance of geographic replication and representativeness when estimating demographic rates, using a coastal species as a case study. Ecography 41:971-981.
- Tingley, M.W., A.N. Stillman, R.L. Wilkerson, C.A. Howell, S.C. Sawyer, and R.B. Siegel. 2018. Cross-scale occupancy dynamics of a postfire specialist in response to variation across a fire regime. Journal of Animal Ecology 87:1484–1496.