Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut
75 N. Eagleville Road, U-43, Storrs, CT 06269-3043
Email: chris.elphick @ uconn.edu
Research in our lab group can be subdivided in various ways, none of which is very satisfactory because there is much cross-over among studies and approaches. Most projects involve asking basic ecological questions in order to address applied questions. As such, our work spans behavioral, population, community, and landscape levels of organization. For a summary of the broad areas where I expect to focus in the near future, see the information for prospective graduate students (click here). Ongoing studies can also be organized in terms of the biological systems under study, and most fall into the following three groups:
1. Studies of saltmarsh birds. Saltmarsh birds have become a major focus of research in our lab group in recent years. To date, these studies have focused on saltmarsh and seaside sparrows but we are also interested in other species (rails, shorebirds, waders, etc.). Our saltmarsh sparrow work includes studies that focus on demography, movement, habitat selection, monitoring methods, distribution and abundance, nesting behavior, and paternity patterns. More broadly, we are conducting studies on area-sensitivity in saltmarsh birds, and on the impacts of marsh restoration on bird species of conservation concern. Finally, working with a large array of partners throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, we are studying regional distributions, population change, and variation in demographic parameters in tidal marsh obligate birds. For more information, click here.
2. Studies of birds in agricultural settings. Bird use of agricultural lands has been an interest of mine since I was a teenager, helping my Dad to survey shorebird use of farm fields in the north of England. Subsequently, my PhD work focused on bird use of rice fields in California (click here), and I remain especially interested in the conservation value of rice agriculture, both in the US and elsewhere in the world. Current research in this area involves literature-based studies of the use of rice fields by birds at a global scale, and the use of other grain fields by waterbirds, but I'm very interested in initiation new field studies on this topic.
3. Studies of endangered and introduced waterbirds. Most of the remaining studies we are conducting involve waterbirds of conservation interest. Typically these studies focus on endangered species; for example I have been working with Michael Reed (of Tufts University) on various issues relating to the population biology and management of endangered Hawaiian waterbirds. We have also conducted research on the population dynamics, movement behavior and foraging ecology of mute swans, which are introduced in North America. Other waterbird studies that we have conducted recently included a study of the effects of human lighting on beach nesting shorebirds, and a demographic study of the likely impact of wind farm development on Caribbean brown pelicans.