Current Research

In recent years Southern California has experienced dramatic changes in environmental quality, largely due to habitat modifications and loss. Naturally occurring wetlands, for example, have been reduced to small, scattered remnants where wildlife, particularly migratory waterbirds, seek refuge annually. Consequently, there have likely been declines in both the number and kinds of birds associated with wetlands. Exactly which bird species have been affected by wetland modifications and how survivors have adapted, are two related questions I am asking.


Answering questions regarding changing bird populations and species adaptations requires a comparison of historical and contemporary data sets. This is challenging task. Aside from species identification problems (e.g. Western and Clark's Grebe), there are legitimate concerns about the methodology used for collecting and comparing data. To help reduce observer bias and apply consistent methodology, I have chosen to use my own data (part of which was compiled with the assistance of other ornithologists working with me) from Lake Palmdale, California, covering the years 1986 -1996. This is a seasonal compilation of birds encountered within the property of Lake Palmdale, including estimates of the populations for each species. When compared with current monthly surveys of Lake Palmdale, beginning in October, 2009 and continuing for at least five more years, there may arise some interesting patterns. As an accuracy check, I will also compare my data sets on bird populations using other established wetlands in the Antelope Valley, including Apollo Park , Piute Ponds, Elizabeth Lake, Holiday Lake and Quail Lake.

Analyzing patterns of avian abundance and distribution involves a detailed understanding of the biology of each species considered, followed by an integration of that information into the much broader context of historical changes to the regional environment. In addition to obvious anthropogenic factors (e.g. urbanization and habitat loss) is the increasingly powerful effect of global climate change on bird movements. Birds and other mobile organisms may respond quickly to resource availability, which is often directly linked to temperature and precipitation. Analysis of long-term climate trends in this region may help explain variation in bird population estimates observed during the past two or three decades..