Predator - Prey Dynamics, Avian Ecology, and Thermal Ecology
The Sperry - Weatherhead lab studies community-level ecological interactions with a focus on predator - prey dynamics. Most of our recent work has focused on the ecological factors that influence predator-prey interactions between snakes and birds by examining the effects of snake habitat use and seasonal/daily activity patterns on avian nest predation risk.
Our research is expanding to explore how global climate change may affect snakes and birds. We have examined ratsnake activity patterns and thermoregulation over a 1500 km latitudinal gradient as a proxy for climate change. Our research indicates that ratsnakes are likely to respond to a warming climate by shifting to nocturnal activity. When snakes prey on nests at night they are more likely to take both the nest contents and the brooding or incubating adult. Because of this we are specifically interested in the indirect effects of climate change on avian communities through predator-prey interactions.
In addition to our primary research questions on predator-prey interactions, we are involved in several other research projects including studies examining black-capped vireo response to brown-headed cowbird nest parasitism, habitat use of hatch year black-capped vireos, use of automated telemetry to monitor snake activity, and ecological modeling of amphibian/reptile response to climate change. Prospective students interested in joining the lab or learning more should contact Dr. Jinelle Sperry (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to learn more about avian and snake research at University of Illinois visit the Lab of Snake and Avian Ecological ResearchLASER.