Tag Archives: Birds

Investigating animal decomposition in a tropical wet forest and agricultural lands

Michael, an undergraduate researcher out of Stanford, is working at Las Cruces on animal decomposition.  Briefly, he’s set out freshly-killed adult chickens and chicks in forests and agricultural lands (i.e., pasture and coffee plantation) and monitors what happens…

He’s got camera traps trained on the adult chickens, and uses transects through both habitat types to pair replicate locations with both major habitats.  It’s interesting (and rather smelly) work: there are a number of specialist scavengers that feed on animal matter, and the roles animal detritus (feces + dead animal) play in communities is often overlooked in light of the overwhelming biomass that plants input into detrital pools in ecosystems.  Michael has already found some exciting facilitation effects within the scavenger community.

Michael was kind enough to take me along on one of his sampling dates.

Snowy Plover Reserve

On my visit to Santa Barbara, California, Raja and I observed a decently-sized flock of snowy plovers, a threatened shore bird currently being managed in several reserves up the Californian coast. While attempting to photograph the birds, a volunteer literally ran down the beach to tell me to keep moving to reduce disturbance to the fledglings.  The reserve is more-or-less constantly patrolled by volunteers with a variety of experiences in conservation biology, as evidenced by this particular volunteer’s lack of knowledge about the plover’s restoration and referral to another individual to answer my questions.