|Font Hill Nature Park, Jamaica|
• bird banding
• morphological variation (differences in wing, leg, bill length etc between populations)
• molecular markers
• stable isotopes (levels of certain elements in tissues indicate the latitude at which a bird molted its feathers)
• light level geolocators (small chips that record the amount of light they are exposed to and allow for more precise calculation of lat. and long.)
• satellite and cellular transmitters (frequent broadcast of location to towers and satellites)
The implications for conservation as a result of this new paradigm are far-reaching. Marra's research into migratory connectivity has shown that it is not enough to preserve one area that a species relies on for some aspect of their life cycle. For instance, preserving the summer breeding habitat of a Grasshopper Sparrow will ensure that the birds that arrive to breed can do so, but it will not protect them when they leave for the next 8 months for their wintering territory. Many of the birds that are declining in the US are migrating songbirds that travel to South and Central America to over winter. We are doing a good job of protecting their summer habitat, but as long as the winter habitat remains unprotected the populations will continue to decline. This initial research and study has prompted Marra to undertake a "Migratory Connectivity Project." This project has the extremely ambitious goal of mapping the breeding, wintering, and migration territories for each North American species of bird so that we can more effectively protect their habitat.
|Mangrove Swamp (wet habitat)|
|Forest (dry habitat)|
Marra's work with American Redstarts has paved the way for what can truly be considered a paradigm shift in how we think about avian conservation. By recognizing the importance of the entire annual cycle Marra is providing challenging new ways to engage in habitat conservation and bringing new challenges to surface. More data is needed to develop something like a Migratory Connectivity Project, but each bird banded, radio tagged, or sampled for isotope analysis is a step toward a better understanding of our world and the many creatures that inhabit it.