Avifauna and Vegetative Associations
A large body of research has documented declines in bird species diversity and population size of some bird species in eastern North America and linked these declines to large-scale land-use changes after European settlement of this region. However, the vegetation of landscapes in eastern North America continues to change in many parts of this region as previously farmed lands are left fallow and natural succession leads to reestablishment of forests. The study proposed here will initiate long-term monitoring of the associations between vegetation characteristics and the diversity and composition of bird communities on the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary. This area is currently undergoing both managed and natural restoration of vegetation after a history of extensive human disturbance. The Sanctuary is dedicated to providing a secure habitat for wildlife and is an excellent location for long-term monitoring of ecological changes over time. The study has established 60 permanent plots and the collection of baseline data for vegetation composition and structure has been initiated. Species composition and diversity of the bird community will be determined on these same permanent plots and associations between the vegetation and bird communities will be evaluated. This system of permanent plots will also provide a framework for future monitoring studies of other wildlife species, including small mammals and reptiles.
Josh Key is conducting this research as the basis for his thesis, which is being pursued with the Biology department at Ball State University. He had initially been presented with two or three options for botanical research, all of which were interesting to him but which he decided not to pursue. The selection of this project was fostered by faculty member Dr. Dave LeBlanc who approached Josh with this project in response to Bill Cummings’s (MGBS Sanctuary Committee Chair) inquiries regarding the desire of the committee to encourage research to this effect. Since Mr. Key had been very interested in both birding and botany for a number of years, he seized the opportunity to do research that combined aspects of both fields.