The Streby Lab
Actionable Science for Evolutionarily Rational Conservation and Management
Actionable Science for Evolutionarily Rational Conservation and Management
The myriad foci of our interdisciplinary research interests broadly encompass the confluence of the nexus of... Just kidding, but research statements are funny like that.
We study population ecology and evolutionary biology with the goals of producing actionable science for biodiversity conservation and management and improving our knowledge of the evolution of animal behaviors. Along the way, we strive to improve upon conventional methods and develop novel methods in field data collection and analysis to expedite progress in wildlife ecology research.
Louisiana Waterthrush and Worm-eating Warbler migration
From Vermivora to vermivoron, we've caught the migration bug and we just can't shake it. We're expanding a collaboration with Rick Huffines and Eliot Berz of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, and joining Patrick Ruhl at Harding University. Together, we've been tracking migration in Louisiana Waterthrushes and Worm-eating Warblers from sites across their sympatric breeding distributions. Return rates were excellent and preliminary analyses confirm that we chose an excellent study system. This project forms the basis of Eliot Berz's graduate research with David Aborn at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and part of Silas Fischer's dissertation at the University of Toledo. Stay tuned for a few cool papers from this one.
Dr. Patrick Ruhl
Bird and reptile demography and habitat associations in oak savannas of Ohio and Michigan
The Streby Lab and Refsnider Lab at UToledo have partnered with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on a study of demography and habitat associations of birds and reptiles of greatest conservation need in the imperiled Oak Savanna ecosystem at sites in Ohio and Michigan. Along with many "while you're there" studies, we will be collecting data on nest-site choice, nest productivity, and juvenile survival, to inform multi-species, spatially explicit models of population growth that will hopefully be used to inform land acquisition and restoration plans in the region. This study constitutes portions of thesis research by graduate students Sarah Carter, Austin Hulbert, and Kyle Pagel.
Game and non-game birds of the TNC Kitty Todd Preserve
We conducted intensive surveys for game and non-game birds (and other wildlife while we're at it) on the 1,400-acre Kitty Todd Nature Preserve. The Nature Conservancy is supporting these surveys to assess the current status of the avian community on land parcels they have acquired, restored, and managed in Ohio's Oak Openings region. Our surveys covered the Preserve, and included areas in various stages of restoration ranging from tracts acquired decades ago to some recently acquired farmland on which restoration had not yet begun. These surveys will provide a baseline to which future surveys can be compared, allowing management progress to measured.
Gray Vireo demography and migration
Graduate student, Silas Fischer, is combining their experience and knowledge of Gray Vireos at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge with the marking and tracking expertise of the Streby Lab to address several ecological and evolutionary questions. Silas' research objectives range from basic questions about habitat associations and productivity to revisiting classical evolutionary theory in a system that allows the removal of some age-old assumptions. Perhaps due to its reputation as "drab and dull" (I'm talkin' to you, bird guide authors), the Gray Vireo has gone relatively unstudied compared to many of the showier Vireonidae. However, their local abundance, amenability to our research objectives, and interesting behaviors, make them one of the sexiest birds on the planet in our eyes.
Silas completed their thesis in May 2020 with a WebEx defense seminar with >50 people attending from >40 locations. Their thesis on migration and post-fledging ecology in Gray Vireos and using ArtScience to explore gender and identity is outstanding and will soon be contributing to the peer-reviewed literature. Silas is continuing in the Streby Lab as a PhD student on a prestigious University Fellowship and is continuing this Gray Vireo work as a portion of a dissertation on avian migration and artscience communication.
Word cloud from Silas Fischer's thesis.
Red-headed Woodpecker demography and migration
Graduate student, R. Kyle Pagel, led the first 2+ years of what we hope will be a long-term study of Red-headed Woodpeckers in northwest Ohio. We are collaborating with the Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery Project and their already long-term study at the University of Minnesota's Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Together, we are combining traditional behavior and nest monitoring data collection with year-round tracking of individuals to address questions about how, when, and why they migrate, where they go when they migrate, how far young disperse in different landscapes, and a few other questions for the long-term project. We and our collaborators are also studying fledgling survival and habitat use to assess how landscape composition influences full-season productivity. Kyle defended his thesis in 2019 and has produced 2 manuscripts for publication.
Vermivora migration ecology
As an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow, and now as an Assistant Professor, Dr. Streby is leading a range-wide study of long-distance migration in a hybridizing songbird species complex along with co-PIs David Andersen (USGS), Petra Wood (USGS), and David Buehler (U Tennessee), graduate student, Gunnar Kramer, and cooperation from many collaborators. In this project (field work, 2013-2017), we used light-level geolocation to identify population-specific migration routes and breeding-wintering location connectivity for Golden-winged Warblers, Blue-winged Warblers, and Vermivora hybrids. During this project we are collaborating with many scientists to not only investigate migration ecology in this species complex of high conservation concern, but we are also conducting collaborative analyses involving song, feather color, genetics, telomeres, hormones, and immune response.
The first hurdle in this study was to redesign the geolocator harness and deployment methods to safely mark birds weighing only 9 grams in a field where efforts to mark larger birds have produced mixed results. Our 2013-2014 pilot year could not have been more successful, with very high return rates of geomarked birds and a full year of data for each bird. Even better, we found that our birds performed a previously undescribed migratory behavior, which we detailed in a report in Current Biology.
This project is nowhere near done producing papers, as PhD candidate, Gunnar Kramer and our collaborators dig through the massive dataset and complete analyses. Manuscripts describing our harness design and deployment methods have been published in Condor: Ornithological Applications, and instructional materials supporting those papers are available on our Methods page.
Combining skills and datasets
Gunnar Kramer's master's thesis included the application of our methods for spatially explicit models of full-season productivity in another species (American woodcock) and the initial analysis of our geolocator data from the Vermivora migration project. Gunnar developed newly modified analysis and interpretation methods that work well with our relatively clean Vermivora geolocator data and, just as importantly, have worked to help others analyze seemingly useless shade-cluttered data from other species.
Golden-winged warbler demography and habitat associations
In the past two decades, enormous effort has gone into monitoring population trends, nesting success, and nesting habitat associations of the Golden-winged Warbler, a species of high conservation concern. Our project (field work, 2010 - 2012) expanded upon those studies and was the first to radio-monitor adults and fledglings through the breeding season. This study was conducted in Minnesota and Manitoba, a region that hosts about half of the breeding Golden-winged Warblers and has been largely unstudied compared to more eastern populations. Sean Peterson completed his M.S. thesis on this project (Sean's Thesis). Sean provided novel insights into the behavior of brood division and post-fledging parental movement strategies, and developed an elegant technique for building spatially explicit landscape models of full-season productivity in songbirds. Sean's work, and that of Dr. Streby and Gunnar Kramer (graduate student) on this project has produced 11 peer-reviewed papers so far (see Publications page), with at least 4 more in the works.
Forest-nesting songbirds in managed forests
Back when Dr. Streby was young, his dissertation research (2006 - 2010) at the University of Minnesota focused on full-season productivity (nest productivity and fledgling survival) and post-fledging habitat selection by forest-nesting songbirds in managed forests of Minnesota. That work produced 12 publications on topics ranging from population-level trade-offs between nest productivity and fledgling survival to testing assumptions common to nest success studies.
Word cloud from Sean Peterson's thesis (above) and a golden-winged warbler full-season productivity surface map (left). Click either image to download Sean's Thesis.
Adult male Golden-winged Warbler carrying a light-level geolocator.
Routes and approximate travel dates for three crews who visited >20 study sites during the spring of 2015 and deploy >400 geolocators on golden-winged warblers, blue-winged warblers, and vermivora hybrids across the breeding range of the species complex. Then we did it all again in 2016 to recover geos. It went well.
Word cloud from Gunnar Kramer's thesis.
Word cloud from Kyle Pagel's thesis.
Word cloud from Dr. Streby's dissertation. Please refer to Publications page for peer-reviewed papers from all chapters.