Discipline: Biological Sciences
Room: Exhibit Hall A
Elsa Schenk - Truman State University
Co-Author(s): Elsa Schenk, Kaitlyn Baker, Joanna K Hubbard
Many aspects of a migratory bird’s life history is adapted to the climates they experience across their range. Weather patterns and climate extremes have become more erratic and more severe every year. Therefore, we examined how variation and fluctuation of temperature affects the breeding biology of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica). As in all species with altricial young, barn swallow nestlings cannot regulate their own body temperature until approximately 5 days after hatching; consequently, their body temperature is almost entirely dependent on their environment and their parents? brooding behavior. In this experiment, we asked whether differences in temperature among nests and breeding sites had an effect on nestling growth rates, survival, and plumage color development. During the 2019 breeding season, we monitored nests at seven barn swallow breeding sites in northeast Missouri and collected blood samples, feather samples, and morphological data from nestlings. Additionally, data loggers were used to monitor the temperature variations inside the nest and Ibuttons were used to monitor the temperature variations within the barn. The data from the data loggers track the bird?s behavior flying in and out of the nest, allowing us to track any changes in behavior coinciding with changes in ambient temperatures. We predict that higher nest temperatures will result in faster nestling growth rates, particularly during the first five days after hatching. Additionally, we expect survival of the nestlings to decrease with more extreme temperature fluctuations. Higher temperatures and drier conditions in the area around the breeding site will likely lead to a decrease in the birds’ main food source, emerging aquatic insects. This scarcity of food would also result in the parents spending more time foraging and less time brooding, which would increase the nestlings? exposure to cooler temperatures predators. Finally, given the role temperature might play in melanogenesis, we predict that the melanin-based ventral plumage color will vary with nest temperature. Understanding how barn swallows respond to temperature fluctuations will provide insight into ways migratory birds might be impacted by and respond to climate change. This is important because any increasing fluctuations that could happen, that are likely to occur, are going to have disruptive effects on animals and their breeding behaviors. Experiments like this will give us some idea of how these animals, particularly migratory animals, will be affected and how we can help them.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): Truman State University; MOSLAMP
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Joanna Hubbard, email@example.com
Role: In this research I have been co-author on this paper, working on the methodology section as well as discussion and results. I was in charge of collecting data and scheduling visits to 3 of our data sites. I have entered, proofed, and am currently analyzing data, while learning how to program in R in order to be able to do more advanced statistical analysis over the significance of the trends found in the data.