The LowCountry Institute has developed partnerships with regional universities and state and federal organizations to create an exciting research program to address local issues. Spring Island (office location of LCI) has been used as an outdoor laboratory for a wide variety projects. Other research projects have focused on the greater Port Royal Sound watershed.
To date, LCI has provided $87,000 and the university partners have provided over $350,000 in support for these programs (1999-2008). Much of this research was also supported by a partnership between LCI and the Spring Island Trust, which has almost 20 years of experience of experimenting with the best ways to manage local habitats effectively, especially those that are in close proximity to residential areas.
research: example projects
Effect of Radio-Transmitters on Wintering Hermit Thrushes
The role of diet in limiting migratory birds during the non-breeding period is poorly understood in part due to the complexities of quantifying food availability and avian diet. We tracked overwinter changes in arthropod and fruit availability for the short-distance migratory bird, the Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus), in a mixed hardwood-pine forest the southeastern United States.
Fruit availability declined over winter and arthropod abundance declined with declining temperature. Concurrently, using fecal samples and stable isotopes, we tracked diet consumption. Fruit declined in fecal samples from early to mid season and ?13C and ?15N isotope signatures in blood became more enriched, consistent with a decline in fruit consumption and an increase in arthropod consumption. Larger-bodied birds, predominately males, maintained territories with higher arthropod abundance, and had a greater proportion of arthropods in their diet and less variation in ?13C and fat loads overwinter. In contrast, smaller bodied females gained fat midwinter, likely to cope with unpredictable and lower-quality resources. These results are consistent with both a size-mediated form of dominance and sexual habitat segregation, such that smaller bodied birds, mainly females, may be behaviorally excluded from optimal territories. Future research should focus on the long-term consequences of non-breeding season food limitation and size and sex-mediated dominance behavior on both within season condition of birds and on subsequent breeding success and survival.
Read the Publication
Andrew K. Davis, Nora E. Diggs, Robert J. Cooper and Peter P. Marra. Journal of Field Ornithology, 79(3):293–297, 2008