Studying Behavior of Birds and More
In 2010, F&M Associate Professor of Biology Dan Ardia and his students began studying the behavior and feeding of birds and other animals at Millport. Their research focuses on how winter temperatures change the behavior of birds in the forest in the northern portion of the Conservancy.
Ardia and his students have developed their own feeders to monitor the birds' movements.
"These 'smart' feeders can give us information on how many birds survive from year to year and how they spend their time during each winter," Ardia said. "We've found interesting trends over the years. The birds prefer the very northern section of the Conservancy the most. We've also found that some years our area receives visitors from the northern United States — black-capped chickadees come and join our resident Carolina chickadees."
This summer, in collaboration with the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment, Ardia and his students will install cameras at Millport to look for coyote and fox activity.
Digging into the Past
Once per week for four weeks in September and October 2012, students in the course "Anthropology 411: Archaeological Methods," led by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Scott Smith, traveled to Millport to hone their archaeological excavation skills.
The students practiced excavating, sifting soil, recovering and processing artifacts, and recording soil characteristics. The focus of the excavations was a possible historic house that existed in the area in the 19th century. Artifacts recovered during the excavation are still in the process of being analyzed, but some material seems consistent with a 19th-century occupation of a structure located in the area, Smith explained. He hopes to continue these excavations with future "Archaeological Methods" classes.
A Bug's Life
Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Biology Mark Olson, Hanna Ahrens '13, is conducting independent research on aquatic isopods (Lirceus fontinalis) in Lititz Run at Millport. Closely related to the terrestrial pillbugs (or "roly-poly bugs"), aquatic isopods are only found in systems with high water quality and limited nutrients.
Ahrens' research focuses on behavioral differences among individual isopods that vary in pigmentation. From one microsite to the next, and even within a single location, she has found isopods that vary in color from light gray to nearly black. Ahrens hypothesizes that these differences influence tolerance to ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure, which could further affect habitat use and activity patterns over the course of a day. She is combining field observations of isopod distribution with lab studies of behavior to address her question.
"Because Lititz Run has reaches that range from full sun to closed canopy, there is wide variation in potential UV exposure," Olson noted. "Hannah's research will help better understand how riparian vegetation can influence stream ecosystems."