Category: News

2021 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

2021 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

Tomos Llywelyn Evans, (Ph.D.), The College of William and Mary, Anthropology, “Uncovering an earthen giant: Sungbo’s Eredo and the socio-political dynamics of Ijebu”, Nigeria
The proposed project will consist of a three-month archaeological field season aimed at developing scientific knowledge of what is thought to be Africa’s largest single monument: the massive, but little understood, 100-mile-long early earthwork system of Sungbo’s Eredo that extends through the forests of southern Nigeria. Fieldwork will be undertaken in order to obtain a variety of scientific data (chronological, material cultural, and stratigraphic) that will help answer key questions about the historical socio-political significance of this massive but still enigmatic monument. These pertain to the chronology of the earthwork’s construction and use, the organization of the earthwork’s construction, and the functions and meanings of the earthwork to the local Ijebu people who generated it and lived in its vicinity. These considerations will offer insights into larger debates about the nature of power and the state in the social sciences, and the ways in which socio-political institutions may generate monumental architecture and vice versa. The project also seeks to contribute to building awareness of this incredible monument, with the hope that this will support ongoing conservation efforts and stimulate sustainable forms of tourism that will generate revenue for local communities.

Edward Andrew Hobbs, Jr., (Ph.D.), University Maryland-UMCES, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, “Ecological and environmental impacts of nutrient loading and sea level rise on methane in a Chesapeake Bay tributary”, Maryland
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (~25 times greater than carbon dioxide) that is naturally produced in sediments of coastal ecosystems. When methane production exceeds that of consumption, it can build up and be released to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Natural aquatic systems are estimated to account for as much as 7-30% of global methane emissions, and can be impacted by anthropogenic nutrient inputs and sea level rise. Where nutrient inputs are large and lead to seasonal oxygen depletion, such as in Chesapeake Bay, there is an even greater chance for methane to enter the atmosphere. One of the main sinks for methane is anaerobic methane oxidation (AMO), but it is unknown how nutrient inputs and sea level rise affect AMO and overall methane consumption in coastal ecosystems. Quantifying the amount of methane consumed by AMO is essential for estimating methane emissions to the atmosphere. The goal of this research is to directly measure and derive rates of AMO within a representative Chesapeake Bay tributary impacted by nutrient loads and sea level rise. The information gained from this project will significantly broaden our understanding of the degree to which these factors affect methane emissions from coastal ecosystems.

Calvin So, (Ph.D.), University of Maryland, Biology, “A search for fossil caecilians in the Newark Supergroup”, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia
Caecilians are a group of elongate, limbless, tropical, and burrowing amphibians with enigmatic evolutionary origins, and one of three living groups of amphibians next to frogs and salamanders. Currently, the morphological evolution of the caecilian body plan is obscured by a paucity of fossil caecilians, resulting in a poor understanding of how caecilians evolved a reinforced skull and an elongated body. With the available record, key morphological and evolutionary events can be inferred to occur in the temporal gap between the evolution of Late Triassic caecilian Chinlestegophis and Early Jurassic caecilian Eocaecilia. To better understand the morphological evolution of caecilians, fossils must be found to fill in the anatomical gap. The Late Triassic outcrops of the Newark Supergroup fulfill the conditions where fossil caecilians are expected; they are within the temporal gap, formerly tropical, and have previously yielded fossils of amphibian relatives. Through phylogenetic analyses, a better understanding of the relationships of caecilians and their extinct relatives can be developed. Prospecting the Newark Supergroup is a well-supported investigation for potential fossil caecilians

Nicole Trenholm, (Ph.D.), University Maryland-UMCES, Horn Point Laboratory, “Field and Satellite Observations of Deglaciated Coastline Water Quality”, Greenland
Increasing glacial meltwater contributions to the Arctic Ocean call for the development of
long-term monitoring approaches of coastal meltwater plumes. Current satellites are limited in the detection of seasonal glacial meltwater conditions. Greenland’s coastline bears nutrient-rich sediment-laden streams that discharge freshwater into the sea. This discharge influences coastal primary productivity, leading to algal blooms and carbon sequestration. The current understanding of the delivery and composition of meltwater to fjord ecosystems is limited by a lack of field studies connecting the ground biogeochemical processes to satellite data. This project will address this gap in knowledge through the use of specialized field sampling methods. This project will advance the understanding of how Greenland’s ongoing deglaciation controls the water quality of the coastal marine ecosystem. The investigation will focus on the nutrient export flux at the land-sea interface of a deglaciated landscape at Sermilik Station on the east coast of Greenland. With Mittivakkat Glacier overhead, the coastal water quality conditions influenced by land-retreated glacier meltwater discharge will be defined. These observations will aid as the foundation for a widespread deglaciated coastline water quality survey next summer along Greenland’s largest turbid meltwater plume.

Anna Windle, (Ph.D.), University Maryland-UMCES, Horn Point Laboratory, “Underwater Structure from Motion photogrammetry: A remote, rapid, and nondestructive method to monitor restored oyster reefs”, Maryland
Eastern oysters, native to Chesapeake Bay, provide critical ecosystem services to the Bay ecosystem. Due to historic over-harvesting, disease, and habitat loss, populations have drastically declined. Recognizing the importance of restoring native populations, the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement included a goal to sustain shellfish populations by restoring oyster habitat in ten Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025. Today, an estimated 788 acres of oyster reef habitat have been restored in the five Maryland tributaries. Reefs are assessed every three and six years following restoration. These efforts use labor intensive methods that are limited by weather and water conditions, are destructive to the reef, and are expensive. Remote, rapid, and nondestructive methodologies to assess oyster reef metrics have significant potential to increase the efficiency of oyster restoration monitoring. This project aims to explore the emerging technology of underwater Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry to assess the potential of large-scale oyster reef monitoring. Underwater imagery will be collected, processed through a color reconstruction algorithm to remove the effect of turbid water, and applied in SfM software to create high resolution 3D models. This proof-of-concept research has the potential to not only enhance oyster reef monitoring techniques, but also transform underwater datasets in Chesapeake Bay.

Julius (“Jay”) Kaplan MN’01
1934 -2021

Julius (“Jay”) Kaplan MN’01
1934 -2021

Julius (“Jay”) Kaplan died unexpectedly on September 1, 2021. He was born on August 3, 1934 in Washington, DC, and lived most of his life in the District. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Ann Lanyon Kaplan, his two children, Samantha Kaplan (Dirk Mason) of Madison, WI and Lael Kaplan (Cheryl Kaplan) of Ashburn, VA, four grandchildren, and his sister, Jean Sulkes, of Chicago, IL. He was preceded in death by his brother, William Kaplan.

Jay was the son of immigrant parents who owned a delicatessen in the Eckington neighborhood of NW Washington. Jay left his tight-knit Jewish community to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Intellectual History with an undergraduate thesis on 20th century American art. While art and philosophy were his early passions, family pressure directed him towards law school. The intellectual challenge of law appealed to Jay and ultimately led him around the globe.

Jay received a BA (1956) from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, a JD (1961) from the University of Chicago Law School where he edited the law review, and an MCL (1962), also from the University of Chicago. He served a year on the Law Faculty of the University of Grenoble, France which began a lifelong appreciation of French culture. His career began in 1962 in the office of legal counsel for the Agency for International Development, Department of State, during the Kennedy Administration. Jay met his wife, Ann Lanyon, at a French conversation group, and they were married in London in 1963. Ann had spent a year in France on a Fulbright Fellowship and shared his interest in French language and culture.

Beginning in 1965 Jay entered private practice as an international lawyer. In 1969 he became a founding partner of Kirkwood, Kaplan, Russin, and Vecchi, which grew to an international firm over the next 25 years with 125 lawyers with many national and overseas offices. Locations included Washington, New York, San Francisco, Bangkok, Saigon, Santo Domingo, Beirut, Bogota, Jakarta, Madrid, Moscow, and Taipei. He finished his career as of counsel to Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft from 1995 to 2000. Jay represented the State of Israel and the countries of Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Iran. His commercial clients included IBM, Citicorp, Gulf Oil, and InterContinental Hotels, among others.

Jay had countless other projects and interests. He served as president of the Washington Foreign Law Society. He was on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Moral Courage. He spent many years working to establish a museum of Jewish heritage in Washington, DC to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of the Jewish community. He was also a member of the Philosophical Society of Washington and was fascinated by cosmology.

Jay was an active member of the Cosmos Club since 1983 and served on and chaired many committees. He successfully nominated nearly 100 other members and in 2018 was awarded the prestigious Founders’ Club award. His family recalls special occasions at the Club such as the Easter or Mother’s Day brunch with children and grandchildren, the New Year’s Eve celebrations, and countless lectures and lunches with friends.

In his retirement Jay became a member then Chair of the Explorers Club Washington Group. Through them he embarked on a series of trips and expeditions all over the world. Some of the most memorable include climbing live volcanoes in Kamchatka, Siberia, climbing sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, watching the orangutans in Borneo, viewing four of the five world’s highest peaks from Sandakphu mountain on the border between India and Nepal, and navigating the Peruvian Amazon. He was active in fundraising events for the Explorers Club that provide field research grants for graduate students.

Jay’s love of art began during his undergraduate years and continued throughout his life. He supported numerous museums and counted renowned curators among his friends. He collected Chinese ceramics, 18th century English and Dutch glass, American studio glass, and American paintings (most notably, a George Bellows winter scene). He was a member of The Glass Circle, attending its meetings while in London on business or holiday, and presenting a lecture on his glass collection in 2017.  His collections also included antique English place card holders and antique Judaica traveling menorahs.

In recent years Jay was an author of two books. The first, “Secrets and Suspense” (2018), captured the highlights of his legal career. One accolade stated that it “read like an international thriller. From working a clandestine Middle East deal, to secretly supporting Argentinian freedom fighters, to trying to establish fast food in France.” His second book, a memoir called, “In Search of Beauty” (2019), illustrated his experiences as an art collector over the course of five decades. At the time of his death Jay was writing a fictional novel that drew upon and intertwined his lifelong interests of art and law.

Jay was a connoisseur of food and wine. He took pride in his personal wine cellar and was a member of the DC chapter of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a Burgundian wine society. He patronized Michelin starred restaurants and enjoyed crafting multi-course menus for special occasions.

Jay will be remembered as generous, cultivated, and passionate in all his pursuits. He relished a challenge and did not hesitate to try new things. Above all, Jay’s family and friends cherished his energy, optimism, and enthusiasm for life. The poem Ulysses by Tennyson best captures Jay’s spirit, “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees.”

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Burial will be private. A memorial service will be held at a future date. The family appreciates the many thoughtful messages from around the world. Gifts in remembrance can be sent to Wesleyan University, the Cosmos Club Foundations, the Explorers Club Washington Group, or the National Gallery of Art.

Wesleyan University: Donations by check may be mailed to Wesleyan University, 291 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457 or call (860) 685-2110 to make your credit card gift. All checks should be made payable to Wesleyan University. An online form is also available. https://www.wesleyan.edu/giving/how-to-give/index.html

The Cosmos Club Foundation (CCF) or the Cosmos Club Historic Preservation Foundation (CCHPF): Donations by check should be made to the appropriate foundation (CCF or CCHPF) and mailed to 2121 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008. Credit cards are also accepted. https://www.cosmosclubfoundation.org/  https://www.cosmosclub.org/Cosmos-Club-Historic-Preservation-Foundation

Explorers Club Washington Group: Donations by check may be made to the Explorers Club Washington Group (ECWG) and mailed to ECWG c/o Treasurer Bruce Blanchard, 80 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008-3611. http://www.explorersclubdc.org/

National Gallery of Art: https://www.nga.gov/support/donate-now.html

 

 

“Godspeed, Los Polacos!” Documentary August 5th & 7th!

“Godspeed, Los Polacos!” Documentary August 5th & 7th!

A new documentary, “Godspeed, Los Polacos!”, just won the Best Adventure Film and Audience Choice awards at the Boulder International Film Festival. After claiming the first descent of the world’s deepest canyon, five university students from Krakow risk it all to fight for democracy.

Film subject and ECWG Fellow Piotr Chmielinski (who went on to claim the first source-to-sea descent of the Amazon River) will be in attendance. Piotr says: “This is a BIG SURPRISE for me and my friends from the Canoandes ’79 Expedition to receive these awards 40 years after we completed our expedition.” The movie has already won major awards at BANFF, the Boulder International Film Festival, and other festivals around the world.

There will be an advanced screening of the film in Arlington, VA, this coming August 5th and 7th. Tickets can be purchased through the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA.)
For tickets and more information:

Additional questions, please contact Piotr Chmielinski directly – pchmielinski@hpenviron.com

Lee Merriam Talbot – 1930 to 2021 – A tribute by Russell Merriam Talbot

Lee Merriam Talbot – 1930 to 2021 – A tribute by Russell Merriam Talbot

Lee Merriam Talbot – 1930 to 2021
A tribute by Russell Merriam Talbot
May 7, 2021

My father, Dr. Lee Merriam Talbot, died last week. He was a truly towering figure. I think of him as an amalgamation of the best aspects of John Muir, Ernest Hemingway, and James Bond. But I think he was humbler and, arguably, more influential than any of those characters.

He was a primary architect and author of, among other things, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Convention on Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), and the World Heritage Convention. He was the Senior Scientist and Director of International Affairs of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the West Wing of the White House for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He was Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Most recently, he was teaching and advising graduate students at George Mason University as a professor of environmental science and policy through this current semester. Over the course of his careers, he wrote over 300 scientific, technical, and popular publications and advised on environmental issues in over 130 countries.

He also loved racing cars. His first professional race was in 1948 (when he was 18 years old) and his final race was in the autumn of 2017 (when he was 87 years old). For those 69 years, he enjoyed competing – and frequently winning – in a wide variety of vehicles and types of races, including dirt track sprint cars, dirt and ice rallying in production-based cars, and grand prix and road racing in formula cars, sports racers, production, and vintage race cars. For most of this career, his number of choice was #62. Pretty much the only type of racing he had no interest in was oval track racing, which he considered to be boring.

I don’t think he could have accomplished nearly as much as he did without his closest confidant and partner, my mother, Marty Talbot. Within six weeks of their first date in 1959, they had gotten married – in grand style, of course – and traveled to East Africa to conduct scientific research in the Serengeti / Maasai Mara ecosystem. Marty had recently co-founded the Student Conservation Association but decided that a life with Lee was more important than continued leadership there. For the 62 years since then, they supported each other, adventured together, and raised two boys together.

Of course, I knew him as just my dad. Although he was frequently out of town for work, he was a very engaged dad to both my brother and to me when he was around. We bicycled, skied, camped, backpacked, and traveled together. He was my Cub Scout leader when I was young. He arranged his schedule to have summers off while I was in elementary and middle school so that all of us could travel around the country, visiting relatives, friends, and National parks in a van that he let us ‘help’ him convert into a camper in 1983. As I got into rowing, he made a point of traveling to watch me race up and down the East Coast and even in England (twice!!!).

Therefore, it should be no surprise that, as a kid and young adult, I assumed that his life and work was pretty standard fare.

  • Don’t most people find themselves in small plane crashes and escape without a scratch?
  • Lots of people spend the better part of their first seven years of marriage living out of a Land Rover doing groundbreaking ecological research in East Africa, right?
  • It’s normal to regularly return from a long work trip in Asia late on a Friday night and then pack up the race car and tow it to a track early Saturday morning, isn’t it?
  • Most kids learn how to behave and be polite when foreign dignitaries come over for dinner, don’t they?
  • Being charged by a lioness while you’re alone on foot and needing to sever her vertebrae with a single shot as she is pouncing on you happens to most everyone at some point, right?

Watching James Bond movies seemed like a slightly modified version of regular life (with certain obvious differences).

His passing, well into his 91st year, was both inevitable and inconceivable. I intellectually know that no one can live forever, but I also know that my father was not an ordinary person.

While making an early ascent of the East Face of Mt Whitney in 1949, his partners and he had to make an unplanned bivouac high on the wall. Everyone at his college thought they had perished. They emerged chilly but unscathed the next day.

He broke his back in the early 1950s when he was a hand-to-hand combat instructor in the U.S. Marines. Military doctors told him he’d never walk again. He disagreed.

During an early running of the Malaysian Grand Prix, his car flipped into a ditch. His legs were wedged in the car, his head was pinned between the car and the ground, and his body sagged into the ditch. Helmets and other safety features were not required, and multiple drivers died during the race. Naturally, he had researched the efficacy of quality helmets and chose to wear the best one he could get. His helmet kept the weight of the car off his head and bystanders helped roll the car off him. He walked away. This is just one of the countless occasions he was in spectacular auto racing wrecks – many of which I witnessed and none of which left him worse for wear.

As referenced above, he survived an airplane crash. While conducting an aerial survey for the government of British Hong Kong in the early 1960s, his plane experienced mechanical problems and crash landed in a harbor, hitting rocks and pinwheeling through the cold, frothing water. He swam to safety, later describing in vivid detail the difficulty of determining which direction was up, while escaping the still-tumbling wreckage.

He and my mom went on backcountry trips into their 80s. One time, maybe about 10 years ago, they were descending a steep pass in the Sierras when a foothold broke and dad tumbled over a hundred feet down a cliff. My mom performed first aid to stop the bleeding, stabilize him, and then helped him hike out to safety. After spending a couple days at the hospital in Bishop, he was released looking like someone who had been attacked by a grizzly bear. Within a month, the scars had healed, and he was back at work. They returned the following summer for more big-mountain scrambling.

Medical issues simply did not stick with him. He refused to even mention his prostate cancer in public in the late 1990s, perhaps because of the social stigma around cancer at the time or perhaps because the brachytherapy treatment he chose was successful and did not impact his quality of life. In the mid-1980s, a doctor noticed an abnormality in his hemoglobin and diagnosed him with primary myelofibrosis, a bone marrow cancer with a life expectancy of five to ten years. Of course, he ignored it and continued living his life to its fullest. Over thirty years later, in 2018 while working in a remote region of Laos, the condition became critical, soon requiring regular blood transfusions, eventually one every week or so. We later learned that he had been functioning for years with half the red blood cell counts of normal men. In early 2019, he found a stage two clinical trial out of Mt Sinai in New York for a new treatment of the disease. His body responded well to the experimental medication and reversed his dependence on transfusions. He went for over a year without needing a single transfusion. In late March of this year, his use of the medication was put on hold due to another, minor medical condition. Unfortunately, the weeks that followed witnessed a rapid drop in his red blood cell counts and resulting complications. With no medication keeping the myelofibrosis in check, he declined quickly and required almost daily blood transfusions.

He passed peacefully at his home last Tuesday while surrounded by his wife of 62 years, Marty, and his sons, Lawrence and Rusty.

To my knowledge, my dad was never that into poetry, but when I was young, he introduced me to a poem that seems to have been his guiding light and has certainly become mine. The poem is “IF” by Rudyard Kipling and it ends with the following:

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

We are planning to have a celebration of his life sometime in the coming months.

If you are able to make a donation in his memory, there are two items that we think he would particularly appreciate:

  • The Defenders of Wildlife (www.defenders.org) is one of the organizations that he strongly supported.
  • Jennifer Lewis and her associates at Que Sera Sera Films have traveled the world to make a film about the achievements of Lee and Marty. They are nearing completion of filming and have received backing from many NGOs, including Defenders of Wildlife, the Rachael Carson Council, Flora and Fauna International, and the Center for Biological Diversity. Tax deductible contributions to assist in the completion of the endeavor can be made here: https://fiscal.thegotham.org/project.cfm/1000/There-are-Still-Wizards/
2020 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

2020 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

Lindsay Barranco (M.S.), University of Maryland, Entomology, “Evaluating native bee abundance, diversity and nesting preferences in small-scale wildflower strips”, Maryland
Ground nesting bees are important pollinators and 70% of bee species worldwide nest within the ground, yet little is known about bee nesting preference. This project will measure the abundance, diversity and nesting preferences of ground solitary bees within wildflower strips, bare soil, and turf grass, and “scratched” bare ground areas within these substrates, and evaluate how management practices (i.e., weekly turfgrass mowing), impacts nesting preference. The abundance, diversity and nesting preference by use of emergence traps, pan traps and net sweeping will be compared. Emergence traps have the unique benefit of capturing ground nesting bees upon emergence or nest building. There exists a small body of research that has identified ground nesting bee preference via emergence traps in agricultural lands, prairies and forests but none in the mid-Atlantic area that look at bare ground, wildflowers and turf grass, or the creation of scratched bare areas within or the impacts of grass management. This research will contribute to this body of research by identifying how land use can be augmented for native bee nesting in order to increase pollinator habitat.

Hannah Clipp (Ph.D.), West Virginia University, Forestry and Natural Resources, “Optimizing wildlife openings for game birds and overall avian diversity”, West Virginia
In forested landscapes, wildlife openings created and maintained by land managers provide habitat and food resources for disturbance-dependent, early-successional game species, such as wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and American woodcock. Though managers tend to focus on game birds, wildlife openings can also benefit a myriad of bird species and guilds, including species of conservation concern, depending on local habitat features and landscape-level factors. Yet little effort has been made to investigate how to optimize wildlife openings to attract a full spectrum of bird species throughout spring and summer. The purpose of this study is to examine the use of wildlife openings by game birds, breeding songbirds, and post-breeding songbirds in response to site- and landscape-level wildlife opening attributes. In the spring and summer of 2019, preliminary data included species-specific and community-wide point count surveys, game cameras, autonomous recording units, and mist-netting surveys to sample bird communities in 65 wildlife openings within the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. Data collection and statistical analyses are ongoing, but the final results will be used to assist land managers in designing and maintaining wildlife openings that simultaneously support target game bird populations and promote a diverse suite of songbirds.

Alexandra Fireman (M.S.), University of Maryland, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, “On the shell of the turtle: Identifying dietary patterns of the Caribbean hawksbill sea turtle”, Antigua, Maryland
The hawksbill sea turtle is critically endangered, and the extinction of this keystone species could cause severe disruption to their vulnerable coral reef habitats. Understanding the hawksbill’s ecology is critical for effective conservation. However, as a long-lived species, hawksbills can be difficult to study in their oceanic habitats. While elusive in the water, during the nesting season, females crawl onto beaches, providing an accessible opportunity for study of the species. This research plans to use this nesting period to learn about both their reproductive lives on land and their in-water lives. This will be achieved by using 1) diet markers in turtle tissue, 2) satellite tracking data to gain insights into their foraging habitats, and 3) long-term reproductive data to understand individual success. The research will focus on a consistently monitored population of nesting hawksbills in Long Island, Antigua. This work will allow for identification of marine areas that produce reproductively successful female hawksbills. Understanding where the most successful hawksbills live, and their diet allows for targeted conservation of their habitat. This project will have direct conservation impacts for the Long Island hawksbill population but can also serve as a model for the Caribbean and even global populations of hawksbills.

Dawei Han (Ph.D.), University of Maryland, Biology, “Sound localization and hearing sensitivity of the barking gecko (Ptenopus garraulus)”, South Africa
Localization of sound sources is a fundamental task of the auditory system. In mammals, the two ears are unconnected pressure receivers, and sound direction is computed from binaural interactions in the brain. Directional hearing is different in lizards and frogs because the two eardrums interact acoustically through connected middle ear cavities, leading to strongly directional eardrum vibration. Therefore, these animals should have a high capacity to differentiate between nearby sound sources. This prediction has been hard to test in lizards, since most are ambush, or sit-and-wait predators and typically do not vocalize. This study will take advantage of the behavior of a highly vocal lizard species, the barking gecko (Ptenopus garrulus) to test their ability to localize sound. The hypothesis is that female geckos will orient towards male vocalizations during the breeding season by walking in a zig-zag pattern, which has been documented frequently in animals with coupled ears. Auditory brainstem responses will be measured to compare hearing sensitivity of barking geckos to other vocal lizard species. Behavioral evidence for sound localization in extant lizards will provide insight into the early evolution of hearing and sound localization in ancestral land vertebrates, which possessed similarly coupled ears.
Rebecca Hill (Ph.D.), University of Maryland Baltimore County, Biological Sciences, “Vocal development in Grasshopper Sparrows”, Kansas, Maryland
Vocal development is a relatively well studied process in model songbirds such as zebra finches and canaries. This study will focus principally on vocal development in a less studied North American species of conservation concern, the grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum). Grasshopper sparrows appear to show a different pattern of learning than most model songbird species, exhibiting an improvisational rather than imitative process for establishing their adult song repertoire. Furthermore, preliminary data suggests the timing of crystallization (or fixation of the adult repertoire) appears to occur along different trajectories depending on song type A methodology to quantify the timing of crystallization using recordings of grasshopper sparrows throughout the song learning period will be developed. In addition, a series of experiments will be conducted that is intended to manipulate the timing of the crystallization process in a subset of these birds using both natural steroid hormones and steroid-mimicking endocrine disruptors in pesticides to understand how song variation and song aberration may occur in the field. Should the effects of endocrine disrupters in pesticides be linked to abnormal song production and decreased ability to find mates and reproduce would provide reasoning to limit pesticide use containing endocrine disrupters near habitats of grasshopper sparrows. This could lead to more reproductive success in an endangered species and ultimately an increase in a population that has been greatly declining for decades.

Victoria Lockwood (Ph.D.), George Washington University, Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, “Arboreal support diameter choice: Biomechanics, ergonomics, and comparative anatomy”, Tanzania, Washington, DC
This project will assess to what extent locomotor behavior can be inferred from hand bone morphology. The extent that morphology implies function has led to debate, particularly about the evolution of bipedalism. Using a chimpanzee referential model, the investigation will focus on these questions: 1) Is the way chimpanzees use arboreal spaces reflected in their hand skeletal morphology? 2) If so, can this relationship be used to retrodict the arboreal locomotor capabilities of extinct hominins? Some primate species display a preference for certain sized diameters during arboreal locomotion. A detailed analysis of the hand-support interaction is needed to interpret these behavioral decisions. A primate optimal diameter equation will be applied to chimpanzee behavioral observations (Gombe National Park, Tanzania), to assess how individuals use arboreal supports, which will then be tested against skeletal hand morphology. Previously collected modern human data and ergonomic equations will be used to identify high-pressure areas of the chimpanzee hand. The morphology of these areas will be compared to the whole hand. This will allow an interpretation whether, and how, early hominins used their hands to exploit arboreal resources.

Kinsey Tedford (Ph.D.), University of Virginia, Environmental Sciences, “Restoring and sustaining Virginia’s oyster reefs: spatial drivers of oyster populations across multiple spatial scales”, Virginia
Restoration of oyster reefs has the potential to improve the conservation status of depleted oyster populations while enhancing water quality, shoreline protection, biodiversity, and fisheries production. However, oyster restoration has experienced mixed success and lacked clear conclusions on the relative importance of oyster recruitment and survival. This study includes a series of large-scale field experiments to examine the relative importance of abiotic and biotic factors in determining the success of Eastern oyster on restored reefs in coastal Virginia. Specifically, the experiments will test how landscape setting, broad-scale environmental variables, and within- habitat complexities interact to structure oyster recruitment and survival, and their associated communities. The density and size of oysters recruiting to ceramic plates on restored reefs that span 22 km will be measured. Manipulative field experiments involving predator- exclusion cages to assess how the survival of juvenile and adult oysters varies across a landscape with strong differences in hydrodynamic conditions will be conducted. The results from this study will broaden the knowledge of coastal ecology and improve oyster conservation by providing insight on how environmental and geospatial variables mediate the success of restoration actions.