My dissertation research will involve determining the tradeoffs of nest flooding versus nest predation on Saltmarsh and Seaside sparrows. Although Saltmarsh and Seaside sparrows breed in the same habitat, they have strongly divergent behavior and life history traits, including differences in nest microhabitat characteristics. Nest flooding and predation limit sparrow breeding success, but minimizing these causes of nest failure represents an adaptive compromise for each species. Nests placed closer to the marsh surface may be more vulnerable to floods, while nests placed higher off the marsh surface may be more visible to predators. Working on Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, NJ, I will compare the probability of nest flooding and nest predation between Saltmarsh and Seaside sparrows, and estimate adult and juvenile survival rates.
I also plan to estimate the abundance and distribution of sparrow nest predators, both avian and mammalian, across the northeast. Inventorying nest predators will help to quantify the type of predation pressure that Saltmarsh and Seaside sparrows must respond to, and may help to elucidate observed patterns of nest predation.