My interest in studying
shorebirds is kindled by the classic model they provide us for investigating
fundamental theories in ecology. I have
a research perspective that is focused on the population and community level. Modeling demography of shorebirds is a
research niche I believe is valuable for the future conservation of this
diverse avian group. My thesis will
investigate the viability of the western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) population in Humboldt County. I hope to quantify the key threats and
factors that influence population growth of this federally threatened
population and assess its outlook for the future.
field experience: In summer 2009 I was
conducting avian point counts in the backcountry of Denali National Park,
Alaska. After a routine 10 minute point
count, my colleague and I proceed to hike along on our transect that followed
the contour of a drainage covered with patches of thick willow stands. When hiking in Alaska's wilderness, one must
always be weary of letting other wildlife know where you are, and to do this it
is custom make obnoxious noise. It had
only been about a minute since we had left out last point, but because of the
survey, by that time we had been quiet for over 11 minutes. However, we had just started hiking again and
it seemed right to enjoy the early morning ambiance in peace and silence. Yet, as we came around the next ridge we were
confronted with a surprised sow grizzly bear and her two yearling cubs walking
in our direction out of the willows. The
sow, as alarmed as we were, stood up on her hind legs and roared at us while
her cubs ran back into the willows for cover.
At that moment I vividly remember when her roar met my ears, and how the
adrenaline surged through my body as though I was switched immediately into
survival mode. My colleague and I
attempted to maintain calm as we raised our hands, spoke confident words to the
sow, and slowly backed away.
Fortunately, the sow felt that we were not worth attacking and so she
turned around and charged after her cubs, leaving a fresh path bulldozed
through the dense stand of willow. While
walking between points, we were quiet never again!