This Thursday, Oct., 4, in the ENSAT Building at Sandy Creek Nature Center, ORAS will host its annual fall potluck at 6 p.m., followed by our 7 p.m. speaker meeting “A Bird’s-Eye View of Climate Change” by Dr Bob Cooper. Dr. Cooper and colleagues have been investigating the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems in the southern Appalachian Mountains since 2003 by studying an insectivorous songbird, the black-throated blue warbler. Populations of this bird species are declining in the southern Appalachians while staying stable or increasing in the northern United States. Dr. Cooper and his associates are finding evidence that a warmer climate encourages the warblers’ caterpillar prey to emerge earlier in the spring, out of sync with the birds’ nesting cycle.The researchers hypothesize that black-throated blue warblers living a lower elevations should have a greater mismatch between prey emergence and breeding times, and have found that the species has largely abandoned the lowest elevation sites since the beginning of the project. Dr. Cooper’s research and a sister project in New Hampshire show similar relationships between caterpillar emergence and warbler population trends.
Dr. Cooper is a professor in the wildlife program at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, where he teaches courses in ornithology, experimental design, and conservation decision-making. Much of his outreach work has been with the bird conservation group Partners in Flight, from whom he has received two national awards for his contributions. He has been an Oconee Rivers Audubon Society board member since 2010.
To reach the Nature Center’s ENSAT Building from the Loop 10 bypass, exit at U.S. Highway 441/Commerce Road and turn north toward Commerce. Go approximately a mile, turn left at the Sandy Creek Nature Center sign and go to the end of the road. Turn left at Old Commerce Road; parking for the ENSAT building will be on the right.