Student researchers studying bird habitats in nearby living laboratory

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By Matt Boxler

A bird in hand is worth way more than that for researchers in the Department of Biology and Biomedical Sciences.

For Alexandra Igo ’13, it’s worth discovering whether a small tract of protected land in a busy section of Middletown serves as an adequate habitat for birds during their critical migration periods.

For Rachel Porter ’13, it’s worth showing researchers that it’s not just possible – but far more practical – to measure corticosterone levels by extracting feathers rather than blood in order to determine stress levels within bird populations.

And for Ali Muehlbronner ’13, it’s worth tracking and comparing parasite levels of both migratory and non-migratory birds in urban and rural settings in order to sketch conclusions about how disease agents are being spread.

Just before sunrise and unbeknownst to morning commuters on Valley Road, class is in full session on the 4.5-acre Sweet Flag property off Haymaker Road, town land protected from development by the Aquidneck Land Trust. Just behind the police station and a stone’s throw or two away from the BJ’s shopping plaza, this riparian buffer area serves as a wildlife sanctuary and a living laboratory for Salve Regina students.

Here, under permit by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Dr. Jameson Chace, associate professor of biology and biomedical sciences, has set up several mist nets along the Bailey’s Brook corridor in order to capture and study birds during the three-month fall migration season.

Read the full story in the November 2012 issue of Report from Newport.

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