I have a number of research interests in ecology. Much of my work has been focused on the ecology, behavior, and evolution of birds. I am especially interested in designing research that meets the needs of policy-makers and resource managers, while also addressing basic questions in ecology. I currently have several areas of research related to the ecology of birds. If you are interested in seeing the work I have completed, visit my "old" research page and my publications page.
A major focus of my lab's research has been on grassland birds breeding in an ecosystem heavily modified by agriculture. This research, begun in 2002, is being conducted in collaboration with L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger, an Associate Professor of Biology at UNO. Our research recognizes that native prairie has been heavily impacted by human activities over much of North America. Where grassland species persist, agricultural ecosystems tend to be in close proximity. How agricultural ecosystems are managed is likely to have a strong influence on the suitability of grassland habitats for breeding birds. The research program combines population-level studies of Dickcissels (Spiza americana) with community-level work looking at the grassland bird community in relation to vegetation and food supply. Our work is being supported by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. To learn more about the Grassland Birds Project, follow this link.
The second main focus of research in our lab is on the stop-over ecology of shorebirds migrating through Nebraska's Rainwater Basin in the spring. This work is being done in collaboration with L. LaReesa Wolfenbarger here at UNO and with Joel G. Jorgensen of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. This work developed out of research Joel's did for his master's thesis in our lab (Jorgensen, J. G. 2007. Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) Abundance, Habitat Use, and Distribution During Migratory Stopover in the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska. M.S. Thesis, Department of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha). We are focusing on how rare Buff-breasted Sandpipers use agricultural lands while resting during their spring migration between South America and their arctic breeding grounds.
Be sure to watch the Buff-breasted Sandpiper Show on NonGame Bird Television!!
And don't miss the article about our work in NebraskaLand magazine.
LaReesa Wolfenbarger and I co-advise most of our graduate students. While much of the work in our lab focuses on birds, recent graduate students have asked questions about butterflies, herbivorous insects, and nest predators such as snakes and small mammals.
Current Graduate Students and their research interests:
Katy Simmons: Effects of human disturbance on passerine diversity and abundance.
Lindsey Reinarz: The relationship between plant diversity and herbivory rates in tallgrass prairie.
Erin Kucera: Effects of Grazing on Grassland Bird Densities in the Nebraska Sandhill Prairies.
Completed Graduate Student Theses:
Jorgensen, Joel G. 2007. Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) Abundance, Habitat Use, and Distribution During Migratory Stopover in the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska. M.S. Thesis, Department of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Zooknrider, Nichollette L. 2006. The cumulative effects of using transgenic herbicide-tolerant (HT) soybeans on plant and butterfly diversity in marginal field habitat. M.S. Thesis, Department of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Klug, Page 2005. The effects of local grassland habitat and surrounding landscape composition on the predators of grassland bird nests. M.S. Thesis, Department of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Berkeley, Lorelle I. 2004. The postfledging ecology of Dickcissels (Spiza americana). M.S. Thesis, Department of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Engberg, Shannon E. 2004. Landscape and habitat effects on grassland birds. M.S. Thesis, Department of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha.