Posted October 29, 2010
Chris Tonra, Ecology and Environmental Sciences doctoral student, for his recent NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant award 'The Role of Breeding Hormones in Seasonal Interactions: How Do Birds Meet the Conflicting Demands of Breeding Preparation and Migration?' The award will help fund Tonra's final year of data collection for his doctoral dissertation.
It is critical that researchers examine how environmental factors act as carry-over effects across different annual cycle stages in order to fully understand how migratory bird populations are regulated. In the American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), males wintering in superior quality habitats arrive earlier at the breeding grounds and have greater breeding success than those wintering in poor habitats. While these 'seasonal interactions' are well documented, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Energetic demands of spring migration can be compounded by the additional demands of transitioning from the non-breeding to breeding state. Tonra's study focuses on how ecological and endogenous factors interact during this transition in Jamaica, West Indies. It will significantly add to our understanding of how wintering and breeding events are linked and will help resource managers develop effective management plans for migratory populations.