Can you ever have too many study sites?

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My crew had great success today installing a bunch of new artificial nest snags at Hickory Run State Park (Carbon Co., PA), adding to snags installed previously by collaborator Amber Rice (Lehigh U) and students. Only Black-capped Chickadees (BCCH) reside at this site, which sits on the Pocono Plateau. This means that we’re now monitoring chickadees at five study sites in southeastern PA (gulp!).

We hope to collect data on pure BCCH at Hickory Run (behavior, ecology, plumage) going forward. This site will supplement our BCCH data from Tuscarora State Park (Schuylkill Co., PA), but because a few hybrid chickadees have recently moved in there (confirmed by our species-identity genotyping), we can no longer assume that all residents at BCCH … and their phenotypes (especially behavior and social structure) quite likely will soon be influenced by the presence of hybrids and perhaps even Carolina Chickadees (CACH).

Tracking the very early stages of hybridization at Tuscarora is exciting … but for some analyses, we still need “unadulterated” BCCH data. Meantime, we look forward to gathering data at Hickory Run on BCCH cognitive ecology and social structure, in collaboration with members of the Rice lab at Lehigh!