Climate Change

In recent years, I have become more involved in climate change research given its potential to have large impacts on ecosystem processes. Many of the effects of climate change on birds are largely unknown; however, there is a growing body of research that indicates birds are already being affected by warming temperatures and seasonal shifts. For example, arrival times on the breeding grounds are advancing and this may lead to asynchrony between prey availability and food sources required for nesting. Additionally, warming at higher elevations could lead to large shifts in species' ranges or elimination of suitable habitat for species that require habitats at higher elevations. We are also looking at climate change implications on shorebird habitat to assess future effects on productivity. Understanding the potential impact of climate change can guide conservation strategies to ensure the persistence of many of the species that may be affected by changing global climate.


In the past, my lab worked in conjunction with other labs in our department to examine various effects of climate change at Whitehall Forest and Coweeta LTER. During 2011 and 2012, we offered a year-long undergraduate program, "Investigating and Modeling the Potential Effects of Climate Change on Ecological Systems," that involved the cooperation of several of my graduate students to intergrate their longer-term research with summer coursework designed to teach undergraduates how to design ecological field experiments. In addition to designing field experiments, students learned to develop and test predictive models, estimate model parameters, assess model fit, and improve models using adaptive feedback. This was a rare opportunity for undergraduates to become intimately involved in climate-change research.