The Warren Lab - Urban-Suburban Ecology
In highly human-modified environments, never before seen combinations of species exist, such as in forest fragments in the ‘suburban wilds’ where many invasive and native plants and animals may co-exist. What is the conservation potential of these urban-suburban green spaces?
And how should they be managed to maximize their value for critical taxa like migratory birds? Ongoing and previous work by our research team has established that Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) and many other migratory bird species are declining in forest fragments surrounded by suburban areas. One possible cause for this species’ loss is increased predation due to elevated predator densities in suburban forest fragments. But we are finding that nestling success is nearly the same in suburban forest fragments and intact woodlands. The current project aims to address this apparent “predation paradox.”
Wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
"I got interested in urban ecology about 16 years ago when I was studying a bird called the Bronzed Cowbird, which lives in Mexico and the American Southwest. In looking for its wintering grounds, I kept finding the bird in cities like Phoenix and Tucson, but not in the surrounding countryside. I wondered why, and what impact that might have on the other species with which it interacts. The more involved in urban ecology the more fascinated I became with the surprising complexity of life and green spaces in our cities and with the need to provide quality places for people to experience nature in their daily lives."
Students in my lab during the 6 week summer program will be participating in a study on bird abundance and nesting success in Amherst and Springfield conservation areas. The research involves maintaining trail cameras put out for surveying nest predators, assisting with searching for bird nests, and checking bird nests to establish if they are active or have been depredated or parasitized by cowbirds. In addition, students may assist with collecting and processing samples of leaf litter and arthropods in the lab and surveys for fruiting plants in the field. Students should be prepared to be outdoors in the early mornings (around sunrise) and be comfortable walking off of trail in woodlands.
Paige Warren, Associate Professor, Environmental Conservation
To apply to work in the Warren lab, and for more information about UMass Summer Pre-College programs, please visit our website: