Tree Swallows nest in boxes. That simple fact makes them ideal subjects for studies examining reproductive behavior and the consequences of individual-level traits on fitness.
Alice collaborated with Dave Winkler at Cornell as a post-doc to address three questions: (1) What are the consequences of individual variation in timing of arrival to breeding sites following spring migration? (2) Why do females lose weight during reproduction? and (3) How, exactly, do chicks die during bouts of bad weather? Two of these projects are, unfortunately, still in the file cabinet (guilt!). The answer to the mass loss question is fascinating… females actively modulate body composition throughout the nesting period in ways that balance risk of starvation if bad weather hits during incubation, and the costs of aerial foraging once chicks hatch.