My peer-reviewed papers are in Google Scholar.
When I was 16 I wrote a note for Inland Bird Banding Newsletter called Blue Jay methodically cracks corn. It described an observation I made while banding birds. A Blue Jay came to my bird feeder, eagerly gathered a dozen corn kernels, then flew to a nearby tree branch. It then coughed up each kernel placing them one by one on the branch, and began systematically cracking the kernels before swallowing each one. Years later I found a carbon copy draft of the article, typed on a rickety old typewriter where the letters in each word lined up like fidgeting coffee drinkers in their morning queue at Starbucks. The draft was filled with embarrassing typographical errors, yet it passed through review by the kind editor.
Since then I have had the good fortune to work with many excellent collaborators. And sometimes I even have a good idea of my own.
My research program is very active and (probably too) diverse given my many other professional obligations. Two of my current major projects are:
Breaking the whole into parts
A widespread form of environmental change is disconnection of habitat patches, which can lead to decline and disappearance of some species while others prosper. Why? My long-term studies of Barro Colorado Island, Panama, document loss of a third of the breeding bird species and wild success of a few very common ones.
Experimental releases of birds over water revealed that some species are unwilling or unable to fly across water thereby restricting immigration. When bad things happen on an island, a lack of new colonists leads eventually to extinction.
For a nice read about the work my former doctoral student, Randy Moore, and I have done on Barro Colorado Island, take a look here.
Many hundreds, if not thousands, of models are being produced to predict how locations where species live will change as climate changes. Those models require large amounts of high quality data, which are lacking for most types of organisms. Even for birds, locations for which we have lists and counts of species are biased toward reserves, refuges, and other unusually diverse places or the location data from checklists are too vague (think of eBird traveling counts). Those diverse places do not represent the real countryside habitats of the world.
We need to leave future generations with a legacy of truly excellent biodiversity data so that our surveys may be exactly repeated. By doing so, future citizens will be able to understand exactly how biodiversity responded to environmental change.
The Oregon 2020 Birds project is creating precisely that kind of legacy for a state that hosts eight major biomes, more than 500 bird species, and is home to some highly skilled birders. As we create this legacy for future citizens, with the aid of current citizen scientists, we will also address some ecological questions of current interest.
The folks at OSU’s Terra Magazine created a short video about contributing to the project.
A great part of the project was involving the birding community. More than 1000 birders contributed data to the project. Because of the wonderful experience, my interest in citizen science (I teach it at OSU), and the value of engaging birders to see the value of their knowledge for the conservation of birds and habitats, I emphasize studies in my research program that use citizen science data.