Thomas W. Sherry







Dr. Thomas W. Sherry

Bird Population Ecology, Conservation Biology
4024 Percival Stern Hall
(504) 862-8296

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Research

My lab studies the population ecology, conservation, and evolution of birds, especially birds that migrate long distances between tropical and temperate ecosystems (the so-called Neotropical-Nearctic migrants). We are interested in factors that control or limit their populations (especially food resources and predators), including human influences on habitats and landscapes in North America and the Neotropics (Caribbean, especially Jamaica). We use a combination of statistical, experimental, and modeling methods to test hypotheses about populations. For example, recent students have looked at the question of whether food sets a winter carrying capacity, i.e., limits these birds' populations at least in part in that season.Jamaican Coffee Picker

Several of my students have looked at the impact of human habitat conversion on these birds by comparing their ecology in natural habitats (e.g., Caribbean dry forest, montane forest, mangroves) versus altered ones (e.g., citrus groves, shade coffee, suburban and rural residential areas). For example, our research shows that many migrants find shade coffee plantations to be an excellent winter habitat in terms of food abundance, bird abundance, suitability of the habitat throughout the dry season, and persistence throughout the winter. We are looking intensively at the available food resources for birds in shade coffee, the similarity in diets among species, and the consumption of coffee insect pest species by birds, among other topics.

Research continues on the year-round ecology of the American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), a Neotropical-Nearctic migrant. Diverse studies have been conducted in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH, and in Jamaica; we are planning studies on breeding populations in Louisiana. A goal of this effort is to integrate year-round ecology of this species as a model long-distance migrant.

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)Several students have been looking at the ecology and conservation of migrant species that are either endangered or threatened (e.g., swallow-tailed kite, Swainson's warbler) in Louisiana, Jamaica, and elsewhere. Some of this work is being done in fragmented versus unfragmented bottomland hardwoods habitats of Louisiana. One student is looking at spider communities in these human-disturbed bottomland hardwoods fragments in LA.

Several studies have been conducted on colonial wading birds (e.g., herons, ibises, egrets) in Louisiana, including the impacts of crawfish aquaculture and heavy metal contamination on their populations

My lab continues to look at prey selection and ecology of tropical birds. For example we have compared prey types and sizes eaten by redstarts in Jamaica, LA (birds migrating through), and New Hampshire; and we have been comparing prey eaten versus available to look at how animals select food and how they specialize dietarily, using both ecological and evolutionary approaches.




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Teaching

General Ecology
Conservation Biology
Population Biology
Ornithology
Processes of Evolution
Freshman Writing Seminar: Cooperation, Confrontation, & Environmental Controversy


Student Research
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Neotropical Ecology Institute (NEI) - Tom Sherry, Director
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