konza panoramic

Emily Williams

processing bird

Masters Student in Biology

Kansas State University 
Division of Biology
ejwillia (at) ksu.edu
(321) 720 - 4778
333 Ackert Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

Emily's CV

Research interests: 

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the movements of individual animals; specifically, how and why birds migrate, and how individuals adapt to changing environmental conditions. I am interested in questions that attempt to determine how ecological factors may drive variation in different life history strategies. Combined with these interests, I seek to understand how birds may respond to different land management and conservation practices in the context of a changing climate. Along with my research interests, I ultimately hope to instill a love and curiosity of the natural world, and encourage others to become involved with conservation.

Current research:  

My research focuses on understanding the causes of dispersal and migratory behavior in the Grasshopper Sparrow, a core grassland-obligate migratory songbird. Grasshopper Sparrows are unusual among passerines as they exhibit a wide variety of movement transmittered birdbehaviors across their range, with migrant, partial-migrant, and resident populations within North America. Among migratory populations, Grasshopper Sparrows display extremely variable rates of site fidelity, ranging from 80% returning males in the East to 0% in Nebraska. Recent evidence from a breeding population at the Konza Prairie Biological Station suggests that Grasshopper Sparrows also exhibit variation in within-season breeding dispersal; some individuals defend the same territory the entire breeding season, whereas others disperse several kilometers to new territories within a single summer. Given these unusual patterns in breeding dispersal, my research seeks to to understand the ecological mechanisms that lead to within-season breeding dispersal at the local level, and between-season breeding dispersal at the population level. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the role of various ecological factors (e.g., habitat, predation or nest parasitism risk, food availability) in driving variation in within-season breeding dispersal of Grasshopper Sparrows across their core breeding range in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas.

Past projects: 

I have been fortunate to work with outstanding researchers in a diversity of beautiful landscapes within and outside North America. Before starting my masttijeretaers, I worked at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina on a project investigating the role of climate in influencing the ecology and physiology of bird populations. In Fall '12, I worked in Queensland, Australia on a project examining vocal signaling and kin recognition in the Red-backed Fairy-wren,a highly promiscuous cooperatively-breeding bird. In Spring '12, I worked with researchers of Aves Internacionales in Magdalena, Argentina in identifying the migratory routes and reproductive behavior of two common austral migrants, the Fork-tailed flycatcher and Tropical Kingbird. In Fall '11, I worked in Parque Nacional de Manu, Peru studying incubation behavior of tropical birds along an elevational gradient. Before heading to Peru, I worked in eastern Wyoming on a project examining the impacts of wind energy development on grassland avifauna. All of these experiences fueled my interests in movement ecology and made me want to pursue graduate study in such research. 

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