Charles Hofer


Ph. D. Candidate


See a recent poster (April 2008)


Summary of Research


"Trophic Transfer Heavy Metals at a Brownfield Site: The Effects of Heavy Metals on Nest Success of Resident Avifauna"


    Pioneer plants that are the first to colonize an abandoned site are, generally, more tolerant of existing soil contaminants. But what does this imply for organisms at higher trophic levels that rely on these plants for food resources? The purpose of this study is to use birds as bioindicators to evaluate if an abandoned, contaminated site that has witnessed natural recolonization and succession is able to support healthy and sustainable communities of flora and fauna. The wildlands of Liberty State Park appear, at first glance, to offer a wide variety of successional woody and herbaceous habitats ­ seemingly ideal nesting sites for resident nesting birds as well as migratory stopover foraging habitat. But are these soil contaminants “poisoning” the avifauna who feed and nest at the site and creating a population sink? By using the suite of common ground-feeding and understorey-feeding species, we hypothesize that the remnant point source metals, specifically lead, are having direct effects on nest success among resident birds at the site. Another hypothesis for this study is that adult birds that arrive at the site for the breeding season with established high concentrations of metals will demonstrate a later arrival time than birds without high concentrations of metals, be less competitive for mate and nest selection, and show a lower rate of nest success. Additionally, we hypothesize that the nestlings being fed invertebrates directly from the site will demonstrate higher concentrations of heavy metals, thus reducing their chance for fledging and survival once fledged.





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