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GCA Scholarships Recipients: The Frances M. Peacock Scholarship for Native Bird Habitat

 

2018 Martha Wohlfeil

Martha Wohlfeil is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis, studying avian biogeography in the Great Basin, the largest area of contiguous watersheds in North America. Her project, titled “Potential Mechanisms of Within- Season Elevational Movement of Passerine Species,” identifies a novel pattern of upslope movement in some bird species and aims to better understand why this does or does not occur. Also studying how avian flight patterns have changed over the past two decades, Wohlfeil hopes her work will aid avian conservation efforts.



2018 Logan Maxwell

Logan Maxwell is a master’s student at the University of New Hampshire. Her project is titled “Fitness Consequences of Hybridization in Saltmarsh and Nelson’s Sparrows.” Maxwell’s research will use field-collected demographic data in combination with molecular genetic tools to study outcomes of hybridization in these two tidal marsh birds, which are threatened by sea-level rise. She will evaluate their drivers and patterns of hybridization in the center of the hybrid zone through a lens of local adaptation within a changing environment.  The results will help enable predictions about adaptive capacity and population viability into the future.



2017 Megan S. Jones

Megan S. Jones is a PhD candidate at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Her project is titled “Identifying Gardeners’ Barriers and Motivations to Improve Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Native Birds.” She will interview residents along the Colorado Front Range to understand what factors motivate them to adopt new bird-friendly gardening behaviors, such as planting native plants, and what challenges may be preventing them from doing more. Her research will draw on an innovative model of behavior change and will generate recommendations for how to improve bird-friendly gardening programs across the US.



2017 Emily Graves

Emily Graves is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Davis. Her project is titled “Risks and Mechanisms of Tricolored Blackbird Exposure to Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Wetland and Grassland Habitats.” Her research will utilize radio telemetry to investigate tricolored blackbird foraging movements in relation to different habitat types. She will evaluate pesticide exposure, bird body condition, stress hormone levels, and insect abundance to determine habitat characteristics that affect reproductive success in this species of conservation concern. Her study provides awareness about the role agricultural pesticides play in population decline of insectivorous wetland and grassland species.



2017 Anna Tucker

Anna Tucker is a PhD candidate at Auburn University in Alabama. Her project is titled “A Network Theory Approach to Evaluate Drivers of Stopover Site Use by Migratory Shorebirds.” Her research provides a better understanding of the ecological factors that influence movement patterns and space use during spring migration in Delaware Bay, a globally important stopover site for Arcticbreeding migratory shorebirds. By using a network theory approach to quantify dynamic movement patterns, she will evaluate the effect of factors, including habitat characteristics, food abundance, and predation pressure on those patterns over the past 12 years.



2016 Meaghan Conway

Meaghan Conway is a PhD candidate at the University of Maine. Her project is titled, “Niche evolution along a gradient of ecological specialization.” She will study how several species of sparrows respond to habitat variation in and around saltmarsh habitats in the northeast. She will focus on the niches of a group of emberizid sparrows with specialized adaptations for tidal marshes, an ecosystem that is vulnerable to impacts of human disturbance and sea-level rise. Grounded in basic ecological theory, her research has direct implications for the management and conservation of threatened and declining bird species. 



2016 Jaime J. Coon

Jaime J. Coon and Scott Nelson are PhD candidates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are collaborating on a project titled, “Exploring the impacts of an invasive grass on grassland bird habitat selection, behavior, and fitness.” Jaime’s research combines ecological and sociological data to understand how productive grasslands can be restored to support avian biodiversity in the context of invasive plant management. Her role in this collaborative project is exploring how invasive tall fescue affects the food resources available to breeding birds at multiple spatial scales. Scott’s research focuses on understanding how the structure and composition of vegetation in tallgrass prairies influences the habitat preferences and reproductive success of grassland birds. This study investigates how invasions of the exotic tall fescue grass into grasslands affects vegetation cover and food supplies for breeding grassland birds. His main role in the project is to quantify avian habitat selection and reproductive success (e.g. nest survival, fledgling production, offspring condition).



2016 Scott Nelson

Jaime J. Coon and Scott Nelson are PhD candidates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are collaborating on a project titled, “Exploring the impacts of an invasive grass on grassland bird habitat selection, behavior, and fitness.” Jaime’s research combines ecological and sociological data to understand how productive grasslands can be restored to support avian biodiversity in the context of invasive plant management. Her role in this collaborative project is exploring how invasive tall fescue affects the food resources available to breeding birds at multiple spatial scales. Scott’s research focuses on understanding how the structure and composition of vegetation in tallgrass prairies influences the habitat preferences and reproductive success of grassland birds. This study investigates how invasions of the exotic tall fescue grass into grasslands affects vegetation cover and food supplies for breeding grassland birds. His main role in the project is to quantify avian habitat selection and reproductive success (e.g. nest survival, fledgling production, offspring condition).



2016 Stepfanie M. Aguillon

Stepfanie M. Aguillon is a PhD student at Cornell University and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY. Her project is titled, "Reanalysis of a classic avian hybrid zone: using genomics to characterize hybridization in the Northern Flicker." She will use new genetic approaches to re-sample a transect across the Northern Flicker hybrid zone of the Great Plains originally performed in the mid-1950’s. In this zone, western Red-shafted and eastern Yellow-shafted Flickers meet and hybridize. She will assess what changes have occurred over the last 60 years.



2015 Bik D. R. Wheeler

Bik D. R. Wheeler is a Master’s candidate at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. His thesis project is entitled “Spruce wood-warbler use of forest structure: Revisiting Robert MacArthur’s study of niche partitioning.” In the mid 1950’s Robert MacArthur conducted the seminal research on warbler niche partitioning, similar species of warblers coexisting through specialization in their foraging areas. Bik is repeating this ecological study at the original location, in Acadia National Park, to reexamine the theory, with modern research methods, after 60 years of environmental change.



 

 

Scholarship Opportunities Abound

The Garden Club of America offers 28 merit-based scholarships and fellowships in 12 areas related to conservation, ecology, horticulture, and pollinator research. In 2018, more than $308,400 was awarded to 65 scholars.

In its inaugural year, the Montine M. Freeman Scholarship in Native Plant Studies was awarded to Angela Merriken and Dr. Uma Venkatesh.

Read more about the new Scholarship and the recipients.