Pipettes & Paintbrushes | Spring 2018

Landscapes of Fear

Landscapes of Fear

Artist: Abby Bonnanzio, Art Department
Paint and ink on wood

Partner: Aaron Grade, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

As the world becomes more urbanized, conservation biologists seek to understand how human “built” environments affect wildlife. I am interested in what drives success or failure for birds nesting in backyards. I do this by building nest boxes for House Wrens, and then distributing these nest boxes in backyards across Western MA. Some are in urban areas, some are in the country, and there are many in between. I then experimentally “scare” the birds by either playing threatening or non-threatening calls in the backyards. I then measure the nestlings as they grow to see how parental behavior changes – either due to how urban the backyard is, or due to the presence or absence of scary predators. These effects, along with other factors such as gardening, pets, and lawn care, all have an influence on how successful birds are at nesting in backyard habitats.