Researchers study decline in bird population
Published: Thursday, December 8, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2011 14:12
Throughout Appalachia, a severe population decline has been observed in the Golden-winged warbler, a native songbird.
Now, two West Virginia University researchers are investigating the cause of the population's decline.
"Everything has its place within the ecosystem. They're just one more species that are having problems with population, so it makes you wonder if there is something systemic that might be happening in these different species," said Petra Wood, a professor working on the project.
Wood said warblers help control the population of insects and their environment's proximity to humans could one day lead to extinction.
"These warblers live in growing grasses and shrubs, which are heavily influenced by human interaction. We've also noticed the birds are gravitating to higher elevations throughout the state," he said.
Graduate student Kyle Aldinger started conducting research on the birds about three years ago.
He began monitoring Golden-winged warblers as part of a project for the Forest Resources Science department.
"This project was started as part of a larger region-wide project involving a number of other universities and wildlife agencies," Aldinger said. "They were all trying to find out what we could do to stop or even reverse these population declines. It's a very large-scale project at a range of places."
Other schools such as Cornell University, Michigan Technological University, the University of Indiana in Pennsylvania and the University of Tennessee have also made similar efforts.
Aldinger said a recent $16,000 grant from the United States Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service has helped their research considerably.
"Grants help in a number of ways, and there have been a number of helpful grants over the last few years. We can hire field technicians to collect data during the summer, buy specialized equipment that we may need for other tests during the field season and basically just keep the project going," he said.
Aldinger said he hopes others will realize the importance of conservation and environmental protection for every species.
"I believe that all species on their own have a sort of intrinsic value to them," he said. "It's definitely worthwhile to try and protect them."