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Climate Variability & Change

Under the hypothesis of increasing global temperatures, dramatic effects are predicted to occur in biotic communities. Evidence to date suggests that songbirds may already have experienced measurable effects of climate change, in both geographic range shifts and changes in breeding phenology. We propose a year-long multi-scaled approach to assess the effects of climate change on birds through investigating changes in the timing of spring green-up, bird community shifts, species-specific demographic responses, and experimentation to test plausible mechanistic responses to climatic changes. Our project objectives are: 1) education of undergraduate students in global climate and Earth Systems science and technology and developing predictive models relating ecological processes to climate change; 2) provide research experience with Earth Observation data coupled with field data collection; and 3) integrate research to create predictive models, provide adaptive feedback, and support management decisions. We will focus on latitudinal and elevational gradients in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. We will begin with a fall semester course focused on training students in the use of Earth Observing geospatial data and the use of image processing software and techniques to characterize past and current land surface conditions in northern Georgia and the southern Appalachians. We will also expose students to climate change science and global climate models through user-friendly interfaces (e.g., Educational Global Climate Model). Spring semester, students will first become familiar with the general principles behind the development and testing of predictive models. Students will then use available bird, vegetation, plant phenology, and climate data to build a series of predictive models under alternative hypotheses about the degree of climate change, and alternative mechanisms of response by avian communities, including possible threshold response. Finally, students will design a summer research project, with guidance from the PI’s, focused on some aspect of plant phenology or avian demographics. During the summer semester, students will first conduct field studies to support their research project, then will update their predictive models using their field data, and finally will provide adaptive feedback of how their findings could be used to support management decisions to mitigate losses to avian biodiversity due to climate drivers. We anticipate providing instruction, field research, and modeling experience to at least 36 undergraduate students in STEM fields, targeted specifically at Earth Systems science and the use and application of Earth Observation data. Additionally, we will development of curricula for two new interdisciplinary courses. We will establish field plots with weather stations to measure NDVI, gather three years of field data on NDVI, temperature, relative humidity, vegetation communities, and the response of bird communities, trophic relationships, and species-specific demographic responses to potential system changes induced by climate change drivers. Data will be used to construct and validate predictive models, with application both to understanding complex ecological responses and the development of alternative management responses.

Project PI: Dr. Jeffrey Hepinstall/UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA RESEARCH FOUNDATION, INC

304 Building 4,180 E Green Street,Athens, GA 30602-2152

Phone: (706)583-8097

Email: jhepinstall@warnell.uga.edu

http://warnell.uga.edu/warnell_bios/app/Public/ViewBio/21

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Started: Sep 27, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 04, 2011

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