Population, Structure, and Conservation of Neotropical Migratory Birds


North America (U.S. and Canada), Central America
(Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica), South America (Ecuador)

This area of research seeks to determine the factors responsible for population declines of Neotropical songbirds that migrate between Central America, Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Despite efforts, researchers have been unable to identify discrete breeding and wintering populations of individual species. This has made relating population declines with likely causes, such as land use changes, extremely difficult. Using molecular genetic techniques (utilizing DNA obtained from a single feather from a bird), CTR researchers have been able to identify the breeding and wintering populations of songbirds. These findings will provide conservation biologists with the means of correlating habitat changes (e.g., urbanization, deforestation, etc.) with the declining populations. In order to integrate our genetic data with demographic data we are collaborating with two California NGOs, the Institute for Bird Populations and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.

In addition, this research has been the focus of the SFSU Minority International Research Training program in Mexico. Working with U. of Guadalajara in the Manantlan Reserve, the MIRT program offers international field training experiences to young scientists from underrepresented groups. The 1999 MIRT program included a Summer Workshop in Avian Behavioral Ecology and Genetics for ten qualified students.

Related Publications

In Review Ruegg KC, Anderson E, Paxton K, Apkenas V, Lao S, Siegal R, SeSante D, Moore F, Smith TB. Mapping migration in a songbird using high-resolution genetic markers. Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1101/007757
2014 Alvarado AH, Fuller TL, Smith TB. Integrative tracking methods elucidate the evolutionary dynamics of a migratory divide. Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1205.
2014 Ruegg K, Anderson E, Boone J, Pouls J, Smith TB. A role for migration-linked genes and genomic islands in divergence of a songbird. Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1111/mec.12842
2013 Smith, T., R. Harrigan, A. Kirschel, W. Buermann, S. Saatchi, D. Blumstein, S. de Kort, H. Slabbekoorn. Predicting bird song from space. Evolutionary Applications DOI: 10.1111/eva.12072
2013 Rundel, C.W., M.B. Wunder, A.H. Alvarado, K.C. Ruegg, R. Harrigan, A. Schuh, J.F. Kelly, R.B. Siegal, D.F. DeSante, R.B. Smith, J. Novembre. Novel statistical methods for integrating genetic and stable isotope data to infer individual-level migratory connectivity. Molecular Ecology 22:4163-4176. PDF
2013 Njabo K.Y., T.B. Smith, E. Yohannes.  Feeding habits of culicine mosquitos in the Cameroon lowland forests based on Stable Isotopes and blood meal analyses. Journal of Parasitology and Vector Biology 5:6-12. PDF
2012 Hobson K.A., S.L. Van Wilgenburg, L.I. Wassenaar, K. Larson. Linking Hydrogen (d 2H) Isotopes in Feathers and Precipitation: Sources of Variance and Consequences for Assignment to Isoscapes. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35137. PDF


Hera, I.D.L., D.F. DeSante, and B. Mila. Feather growth rate and mass in nearctic passerines with variable migratory behavior and molt pattern. The Auk 129 (2): 222-230. PDF

2011 Irwin, D.E., J.H.Irwin, and T.B. Smith. Genetic variation and seasonal migratory connectivity in Wilson’s warblers (Wilsonia pusilla): species-level differences in nuclear DNA between western and eastern populations. Molecular Ecology 20: 3102-3115. PDF
2008 Mila, B., R.K. Wayne, and T.B. Smith. Ecomorphology of migratory and sedentary populations of the yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata). Condor 110: 335-344. PDF
2007 Mila, B., J. E. McCormack, G. Castenada, R. K. Wayne, and T. B. Smith. Recent postglacial range expansion drives the rapid diversification of a songbird lineage in the genus Junco. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 274: 2653-2660. PDF
2007 Mila, B., T.B. Smith, and R.K. Wayne. Speciation and rapid phenotypic differentiation in the yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata) complex. Molecular Ecology 16: 159-173. PDF
2006 Mila, B., T.B. Smith, and R.K. Wayne. Postglacial population expansion drives the evolution of long-distance migration in a songbird. Evolution. 60: 2403-2409. PDF
2006 Ruegg, K. H. Slabbekorn, S. Clegg, and T.B. Smith. Divergence in mating signals correlates with ecologicial variation in the migratory songbird, Swainson's thrush (Catharus ustulatus). Molecular Ecology 15: 3147-3156. PDF
2005 Kelly, J., K.Ruegg, and T.B. Smith. Combining isotopic and genetic markers to identify breedein origins of migrants birds. Ecological Applications 15: 1487-1494. PDF
2005 Smith, T. B., S. M. Clegg, M. Kimura, K. Ruegg. B. Milá, and I. Lovette. Molecular genetic approaches to linking breeding and overwintering areas in five Neotropical migrant passerines. Pages 222-234. In R. Greenberg and P. P. Marra (Eds.). Birds of Two Worlds: The Ecology and Evolution of Migration. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
2004 Lovette, I. J., S. M. Clegg, and T. B. Smith. Limited utility of mtDNA markers for determining connectivity among breeding and overwintering locations in three Neotropical migrant birds. Conservation Biology 18: 156-166. PDF
2003 Hobson, K. A., L. I. Wassenaar, B. Milá, I. Lovette, Caroline Dingle, and T. B. Smith. Stable isotopes as indicators of altitudinal distributions and movements in an Ecuadorean hummingbird community. Oecologia 136: 302-308. PDF
2003 Clegg, S., J.F. Kelley, M. Kimura and T.B. Smith. Combining genetic markers and stable isotopes to reveal population connectivity and migration patterns in a Neotropical migrant, Wilson's warbler (Wilsonia pusilla). Molecular Ecology. PDF
2003 Smith, T. B., P.P. Marra, M. S. Webster, I. Lovette, L. Gibbs, R. T. Holmes, and S. Rohwer. [COMMENTARY]. A call for feather sampling. The Auk 120: 218-221. PDF
2002 Kimura, M., S. M. Clegg, I. J. Lovette, K. R. Holder, D. J. Girman, B. Mila, P. Wade, and T. B. Smith. Phylogeographic approaches to assessing demographic connectivity between breeding and overwintering regions in a Nearctic-Neotropical warbler (Wilsonia pusilla). Molecular Ecology 11: 1605-1616. PDF
2002 Ruegg, K. and T. B. Smith. Not as the crow flies: a historical explanation for circuitous migration in Swainson's thrush (Catharus ustulatus). Proceedings of the Royal Society, London 269: 1375-1381. PDF
2000 Milá, B.D. Girman, M. Kimura and T.B. Smith. Evidence for Pleistocene effects on the phylogeography of MacGillivary's warbler. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London 267: 1033-1040. PDF

CTR Bird

Center for Tropical Research | UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
La Kretz Hall, Suite 300 | 619 Charles E. Young Dr. East | Los Angeles, CA 90095-1496

The Center for Tropical Research, located on the third floor of La Kretz Hall, is part of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. For general inquiries, contact Christa Gomez, CTR Office Manager, at 310-206-6234, or by email at cgomez@lifesci.ucla.edu. Visitors are always welcome.

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