107 years of avian ecology

107 years of avian ecology: (from Irby) I’m enjoying a double pilgrimage to two of the most historically important touch-stones of avian ecology in North America. Earlier in the week I was in Acadia National Park in Maine, where Bik Wheeler (a graduate student at nearby College of the Atlantic) kindly showed me around his study site — where he is re-surveying the exact plot made famous by Robert MacArthur in a classic 1958 paper on niche partitioning among five sympatric species of warblers. This was the paper that quickly made it into textbooks based on how the different bird species coexist by dividing up the trees by foraging in different strata. That well-known version is actually a simplification of the original paper and much has changed at the study site in the intervening years, but the original location is still a spruce forest and there are still lots of warblers foraging in those trees. My thanks to Bik and his advisor John Anderson for their enthusiastic welcome. Then I continued on to New Hampshire to a wonderful lunch with Deb and Dick Holmes (my undergrad mentor) where we talked a lot about how Dick’s long-term avian ecology project at Hubbard Brook is getting close to its 50th year. That project has played a hugely influential role in our understanding of everything from avian community structure (using approaches that were much more rigorous than MacArthur’s…) to food webs and energetics, to behavioral ecology and population regulation and conservation. The Hubbard Brook bird project has also helped train hundreds of young ornithologists, and as one of them I remain deeply grateful for Dick’s guidance and support during a very formative part of my education. It is no accident that I still study warblers!

Irby and Bik at Robert MacArthur's warbler study site

Irby and Bik at Robert MacArthur’s warbler study site

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