I am fascinated by behavioral ecology — how and why birds do what they do. I recently graduated with my Master’s degree from Mike Ward’s lab at the University of Illinois, where I investigated how the embryos of several shrubland and grassland songbirds including Field Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, Gray Catbirds, and Northern Cardinals develop inside their eggs. Songbirds face many different challenges during the breeding season and must make decisions to deal with these challenges, including where and when to nest, how many eggs to lay, and how to incubate their eggs efficiently.
Growing up, I enjoyed watching birds feeding and bathing in the backyard. It wasn’t until after I took an ornithology course that I became more interested in watching their behaviors and learning about individual species. As the years passed, I became increasingly aware of the differences in their habitat preferences, habitat use, movement, and ecological significance. When I decided to pursue a master’s degree, I wanted a research project that would allow me incorporate habitat use, because understanding how animals utilize their habitats is necessary in supporting management and policy decisions. Conducting research at Archbold Biological Station (Archbold) with Florida Scrub-Jays provided me an opportunity to do just that.