Eric Ross

Graduate Student

Research Interests

My research interests center around the use of GIS and spatial analyses to investigate applied questions in avian ecology.  As an undergraduate I explored these interests through a number of projects, namely research on avian habitat selection, song sharing patterns and avian olfaction. Since coming to UW-Madison I’ve harbored an interest in macroecology and enjoy making hypotheses about how field/laboratory study findings might play out at massive spatial-scales. Working at these scales requires equally large data sets and a heavily quantitative approach.

Migration phenology and climate change

At UW-Madison, I am using the citizen science database Project FeederWatch to explore the migration phenology of several short-distance migratory bird species of the Upper-Midwest. Many of these short-distance migrants have been rapidly advancing the timing of their migrations over the past several decades due to climate change. While we know climate is playing a role, it is difficult to nail down which climate variables, over what time periods, and in what areas, short-distance migrants are using to time their arrival at their breeding grounds.







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Therefore, for my thesis, I am looking to synthesize much of this information and create a predictive model of short-distance migrant arrival on the breeding grounds based upon a suite of climate variables over a large spatio-temporal scale. The ultimate purpose of this model will be to input climate model projections and determine what the future of phenology might look like for migratory birds and how that factors into their management and conservation.

In addition to migration phenology at the macro-scale, I am also interested in the dynamics of stopover ecology and selection of habitat for settlement upon arrival at the breeding grounds. To investigate one such dynamic, as part of my thesis I am asking the question: How do avian communities shift both temporally and spatially in relation to the ecological conditions and structure of that habitat? I will attempt to answer this question through the use of avian surveys and collaboration with Huan Gu, a PhD student of Phil Townsend’s lab, who collected a wealth of information on tree structure and species composition at several sites around Madison, WI.


BS, Environmental Science, Technology, and Policy. California State University-Monterey Bay, December 2011.