Natural Science Seminar - Abstracts Fall 2007


Ryan Morra
Sept. 10, 2007
Factors Contributing to Invasibility: Enemy Release and Leaf Properties
Mentors: Dr. Manuel T. Lerdau, University of Virginia and Dr. Mark Brenner

Abstract.  Variation in the degree of invasibility among exotic species is topic of great interest in current ecological research. A prevailing hypothesis, the enemy-release hypothesis (ERH) posits that species introduced into an exotic region can proliferate due to liberation from predators found in their native ranges. The ERH predicts that non-invasive exotics are still under pressure by enemies in the introduced area, otherwise they would also become invasive. Physiological factors unrelated to geographic origin may also be driving predator preferences. The objective of this study was to determine whether there was difference in insect damage among native, invasive exotic, and non-invasive exotic woody plant species. In addition, this study examined whether other leaf properties could serve as predictors for insect damage, particularly specific leaf area. Specific leaf area, the projected leaf area per dry mass, is a standard measurement that is correlated to nitrogen content and palatability. The State Arboretum of Virginia presented a unique opportunity to carry out a robust and phylogenetically-informed study of the ERH. Eighteen species from the genera Acer, Euonymus, Lonicera, Quercus, and Viburnum were chosen for comparison. Within each genus, there was at least one native, non-invasive exotic, and invasive species represented by three individuals in the study site. Four damage types (chewing, skeletonizing, leaf mining, and galling) as well as overall damage were scored on 60-90 sun-leaves from each individual over three sampling periods from June to July 2007. The specific leaf area of ten sun leaves from each individual was also measured. Native species ad greater damage scores than both invasive and non-invasive exotics (rANOVA p > 0.0001), with no significant difference between invasives and non-invasives. There was a weak correlation between SLA and overall damage (general linear model ANOVA p = 0.048, r2 = 0.1396). Chewing and skeletonizing damage was spread evenly among individuals in each invasibility classification, whereas leaf mining and galling were observed more frequently on native individuals than invasive and non-invasive exotic species. The results suggest that specific leaf area is most likely not a driving preference for predators, and does serve as an effective proxy for overall damage. Most importantly, there are strong data that indicate that release from enemies alone is not sufficient to lead exotic species to become invasive.


Alison E. Borrman
September 24, 2007
A quantitative analysis of applied kinesiology nutrient proximity techniques
Mentor: Dr. Robert Eckstein

Abstract: In 1968 Dr. George Goodheart, the founder of applied kinesiology (AK), introduced the use of the technique for allergy diagnosis. The methods have spread worldwide and are now easily accessed by lay people. Despite widespread use, there is a lack of scientific research on the topic. The objectives of this study were 1). To determine whether the proximity of a food substance had an observable affect on muscle strength, and 2). To determine whether the assessment of muscle strength by manual muscle testing (MMT) correlated with measures derived by hand-held dynamometry (HHD).   Three substances, flour, sugar and a control, were tested on twenty-four subjects. Each subject underwent a MMT of the anterior deltoid and grip strength measurements using HHD, for each substance. Objective strength change measurements were broken into not weakened (NW) and weakened (W) subgroups according to subjective assessments. T-tests of the control treatment subgroups were significantly different (p = 0.01), while t-tests of the flour and sugar treatments showed no significant difference between subgroups (p = 0.22, p = 0.92 respectively). A comparison of objectively determined strength change values shows no significant difference between the three treatments (ANOVA p > 0.05). The results suggest a failure to accept the alternative hypothesis and failure to reject the null. It is possible that the treatments have no affect on muscle strength or that the dynamometer is not reliable enough to measure strength changes caused by the treatments.


Shannon Waldron
October 1, 2007
Water Soluble Antioxidant  Development During the Ripening Stages of  Tomatoes (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)
Mentor: Dr. Victoria Collins

Abstract: Ethylene is hormone emitted by fruits at levels of 1-2 ppm which promotes ripening.  Tomato production in the US takes advantage of this role by harvesting green fruits and bringing the fruits quickly to the red stage by exposure to ethylene at levels of 150 ppm.  No studies have been found which investigate the effects of these high levels of ethylene on nutrient composition of the fruit.

Tomatoes are a good source of antioxidants which may offer many health benefits, because antioxidants remove dangerous free radicals from tissues.  This study compared the hydrophilic antioxidant capacity (AOC) of   (1) fruits taken from the vine at the green, orange, and red stages, and (2)  red fruits ripened on the vine, or indoors on a table, in a paper bag, or in a chamber with 120 ppm ethylene. 

One fruit was taken from each of 10 plants at each ripeness stage.  AOC of the diluted fruit juice was determined by spectrophotometrically monitoring the quenching of the colored diphenylpicrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical.    Among the vine-ripened fruits, the AOC’s of green, orange, and red fruits were 19, 31, and 26 micromoles/serving, respectively.  Green AOC differed significantly (p<0.05) from orange and red, when ripened off the vine, ethylene reduced ripening time.  Ripening treatments had a significant effect on the AOC of red fruits.     The vine ripened fruits tended to have highest AOC. But vine ripening and table ripening did not differ.  Ethylene in paper bag or chamber significantly reduced AOC compared to vine and table ripening, but AOC of chamber and paper bag treatments did not differ significantly. These data may imply that ethylene treatment reduces water soluble AOC.


Marc Weller
October 8, 2007
White tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Swannanoa Valley
Mentor: Dr. Lou Weber


Abstract:  The white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is an important and widespread game species in North America, ranging from southern Canada to Brazil, occupying a diverse array of habitat types.  Habitat destruction and overhunting led to the widespread extermination of deer in most of the Eastern United States by the year 1900.  Implementation and enforcement of game laws after the turn of the century, as well as importation of deer from areas where they survived, helped populations to rebound. My objective was to determine why populations remain so low in the Swannanoa Valley.  I placed motion sensing game cameras in the woods, two on Jones Mountain and one on the Cold Springs trail, to monitor wildlife.  I also distributed flyers in the Bull Creek area and on Warren Wilson campus and collected sightings via email and phone reports.  I received reports from multiple residents and retrieved a picture of deer from one of the cameras on Jones Mountain, showing that small numbers of deer are present.  The evidence indicates that deer are not limited by humans, lack of a source population, or habitat and food availability, but that nearby populations are not dispersing to the area because they have no natural incentive to do so.

Joe Kennedy
October 15, 2007
Relationship of Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting approach to time, moon, and tidal sequence on South Island, SC

Abstract:  Loggerhead sea turtle nesting success has drastically decreased due to confounding factors regarding deteriorating nesting habitat.  The rise of human disturbance in nesting habitats has increased risk of extinction for Loggerheads due to excessive nest depredation from both introduced and native species. In South Carolina, raccoon and ghost crab depredation have been researched extensively which has helped create an extensive loggerhead nesting protection program.  However, within the past 4 years, eastern coyote depredation has destroyed on average 35% of all nests on South Island in South Carolina.

The former protection program is insufficient in providing protection from depredation from eastern coyotes.  Due to their curious and fast learning demeanor, coyotes can often pinpoint a potential nesting Loggerhead before she begins to nest.  Prior to the arrival of the non-native eastern coyote, predation control occurred the morning following nesting.  Throughout the summer of 2006, S.C. Department of Natural Resources permitted access that I may inventory and protect incoming Loggerhead Sea Turtles throughout the evening until morning.  This provided constant attention for the incoming sea turtles and decreased depredation nearly to zero. Throughout the evening, I determined the arrival time of the nesting Loggerheads within fifteen minutes.  My objective was to determine if the approximate arrival time had close relationships to time, tide, or moon sequence.  If a relationship could be found, a more realistic regiment for depredation control could be created that would focus technician survey time to the highest concentration of arrivals.  Due to the solitary nature of the internship, extended evening surveys are both dangerous for the intern and expensive for the state.  There was no apparent patterns observable that related to the three studied factors.  As eastern coyotes increase their range, they are likely to become a large factor in predation of Loggerhead eggs in the southeast. Although this data does not infer any observable relationships to help prevent this depredation, it opens a forum to begin evaluating feasible options to prevent the serious impacts of the eastern coyote.

Carol Sevin
October 29, 2007
Lentinan Content in Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
Mentor: Dr. Victoria Collins

Abstract: The most potent medicinal compound of shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is believed to be lentinan, a β-glucan.  The structure of lentinan causes indirect antitumor and antimicrobial properties.  The objectives of this study were to develop a method for comparing the amount of lentinan in shiitake samples and to compare lentinan content in shiitake grown at WWC and stored at different temperatures.  Ten grams of shiitake from each of seven logs were stored at -70, -10, 4, 24 ºC for five days.  Lentinan was extracted from the fruit by successive cold and hot alkaline extractions.  Sirofluor forms a complex with lentinan which fluoresces at 502nm when excited at 398nm.  Fluorescence data were collected using a fluorimeter (RF-10AXL Shimadzu).  Increasing storage temperatures significantly (p = 0.008) decreased fluorescence.  Relative fluorescences were 728, 639, 422, and 393 for -70, -10, 4, 24 ºC respectively.  These results suggest that the medicinally active compound in shiitake decreases as storage temperature increases.


Emily S. Paulsen
October 29, 2007
Plague (Yersinia pestis) in Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) Colonies of Prowers County, Colorado
Mentor: Dr. Lou Weber

Abstract: One of the most problematic diseases affecting rodent species in the United States is the plague, a bacterium whose vector is the common flea.  The Black-tailed Prairie Dog, a colonial rodent species inhabiting the western U.S., harbors these infected fleas and, therefore, suffers massive population losses yearly.  In the state of Colorado, surveillance efforts monitor plague interactions with this particular rodent species and other wildlife species, but no extensive prairie dog surveillance has occurred in one of the state’s eastern counties, Prowers County.  The objective of this study was to determine if plague is present in Black-tailed Prairie Dog colonies of Prowers County, Colorado.  Fourteen different prairie dog colonies in the county were located and surveyed for plague presence in June 2007.  Visual plague assessments inside a mound included: undisturbed mound soil, spider webbing inside each mound hole, and blowflies caught in the webbing. Multiple mounds in one area of the colony showing these visual signs could possibly infer plague infection.  Ten of the fourteen colonies were active and healthy with no plague infections. Three colonies were entirely decimated from plague infection.  One colony had a mixture of plague-infected and plague-free mounds.  The results suggest that plague is present in Black-tailed Prairie Dog colonies of Prowers County, although the three visual mound assessments were not representative of the actual infection statuses of each colony.

William Franklin
November 5, 2007
Sleep Deprivation and its Effects on Motor Skills
Mentor: Dr. Robert Eckstein

Abstract: Sleep can be categorized into two different types; rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. These two types of sleep are based on both polygraphic variables from an EEG, EOG, and EMG, and bodily fuctions during sleep. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation has adverse effects of cognitive functions, memory, and other daily tasks. The objective of this study was to observe the effects of sleep deprivation on motor skills tasks. Thirty-three subjects were gathered using convenience sampling and asked to participate in four tasks. The tasks were the Waldo task, reaction time task, logical reasoning task, and domino task. The subjects’ results were divided up based on three different criteria, which were average amount of sleep, whether or not a nap was taken, and amount of sleep before the test.  Subjects who had less sleep the night before were significantly different from subjects with high sleep for the Waldo task (p value 0.03). Subjects who had taken a nap appeared to on average have done better on the Logical Reasoning Task than subjects without naps, but the result was not significant (p value of 0.07). Subjects whom on average had more sleep appeared to have taken more time to find Waldo, but the result was not significant (p value 0.06). Subjects whom on average had more sleep obtained better scores on the reaction time test (p value 0.02). Subjects whom on average had less sleep appeared to have scored better on the logical reasoning task, but the result was not significant (p value 0.06). This variation of results among subjects suggests that different people have different capacities for sleep deprivation before their performance may be affected.

Jenna Schreiber
November 12, 2007
The Allelopathic Effects of Butternut (Juglans cinera) on Non-Native Invasive Species
Mentor: Dr. Mark Brenner

Abstract: Non-native invasive species are causing significant damage to native habitats all over the globe and even here on the Warren Wilson campus. One potential control for this problem is the reintroduction of native allelopathic plants. Allelopathy is the ability for the chemicals that one-plant posses to have an adverse effect on another plant (Hierro and Callaway, 2003). The tree Butternut (Juglans cinera) contains the allelochemical juglone in its roots and nuts. The objective of this study is to determine if the restoration of the native butternut has allelopathic effects on non-native invasive species. Two treatments were made from the ground root of butternut (4g ground butternut root/50g soil/75ml water and 8g ground butternut root/50g soil/ 75ml water). A positive control treatment was made using pure juglone (0.006g pure juglone/50g soil/75ml water). A negative control treatment was made by adding nothing to the soil and still moistening it with 75ml of water. Seedlings of the invasive species Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and Bicolor Lespedeza (Lespedeza bicolor) were transplanted into the treatment pots after growing in the greenhouse on the mister shelf for 28 days. After 14 days plants were cut, dried and weighed. An ANOVA was used to compare the treatment groups. A p-value of 0.3530 indicating no significant difference between treatment groups was obtained for tree of heaven. A p-value of 0.0017 indicated a significant difference between the control treatment and all other treatment groups for Lespedeza. Based on these observations the presence of butternuts containing the allelochemical juglone could reduce the vigor of the invasive plant lespedeza.

Leslie Selgestad
Nov. 12, 2007
Fatty acid analysis of venison from wild deer and farm-raised deer
Mentors: Dr. Victoria Collins and Dr. Mark Brenner

Abstract: Omega-6 and omega-3 are two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are very important to our diet.  Messenger compounds created by omega-6 increase vasoconstriction, blood pressure and blood viscosity while messenger compounds created by omega-3 decrease vasoconstriction, blood pressure and blood viscosity.  Eating red meat is one way to obtain these essential fatty acids, and studies have shown grass-fed beef to have higher omega-3 levels than grain-fed beef.  Red meat in the form of wild game meat is becoming more and more popular in the U.S. and many farms are now raising deer to be commercially processed for the consumer.  The objective of this study was to measure the omega-6 : omega-3 fatty acid ratios in wild white-tailed deer and farmed white-tailed deer, and then to compare omega-6 : omega-3 fatty acid ratios in wild deer from different regions of the country.  Wild deer samples were collected from various areas of the U.S. – 2 from WI, 2 from IL, 3 from NC and 1 each from SC and MD (n=9).  Two farmed deer samples were collected from 1 farm in SE MN (n=2).  Two subsamples were prepared from each sample and then run through a gas chromatograph/mass spectrophotometer to separate and quantify the individual fatty acids.  Average omega-6 : omega-3 ratios were then calculated for each sample. The two farmed deer samples had ratios of 2.47 :1 and 2.97 :1 omega-6 :omega-3, respectively.  The wild deer samples from IL had the highest ratios of 3.87 :1 and 3.50 :1, respectively and one wild deer sample from SC had the lowest ratio of 1.68 :1 omega-6 :omega-3.

Bill Pence
Nov. 19, 2007
Lead Analysis of Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta) Scales
Mentors: Dr. Dean Kahl and Dr. Lou Weber

Abstract: The shed skins of snakes can serve as useful pollution monitoring tissues.  One heavy metal that is of special environmental concern, lead (Pb), can be detected in these reptilian tissues.  The snake species that was used in this study was the Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta). The objectives of this study were to develop an analytical method to detect lead in shed snake tissue and to conduct a lead contamination assessment of three areas of interest to see if lead contamination is present.  Skins were obtained from the Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City, KS; the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, NC; and Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.  For each location, three shed skins (n=3) were obtained, giving a total of nine samples (n=9).  For each skin, approximately one gram was rinsed with acetone/water and digested in 40. ml of 70% nitric acid and was allowed to sit overnight.  The samples were evaporated to dryness and diluted with 12. ml of 2% nitric acid and 5. ml of 30% hydrogen peroxide.  The clear samples were heated and transferred to centrifuge tubes with each tube containing 10. ml of sample.  The samples were analyzed using an ion-coupled plasma (ICP) spectrophotometer at Western Carolina University.  Lead was detectable in each sample; Lakeside Nature Center (130, 150, 380 ppb); Western North Carolina Nature Center (90, 440, 210 ppb); Warren Wilson College (6,400, 210, 490 ppb).  The outlier in this study was WWC 1 (6,400 ppb), which came from the Facilities Management and Technical Services (FMTS) at Warren Wilson College and indicates possible lead contamination near the collection site.  Statistical analysis was not performed for this study because of the small sample size and because the lead concentration values did not show normal distribution.  The results suggest that lead can be detected in these tissues using this method.  The lead concentration range in this study (90 – 490 ppb) fell within the lead concentration range from one study in Virginia in 2005 (54 – 783 ppb) and was in close proximity with another study from Punjab, India in 1988 (180 – 220 ppb), which suggests elevated lead levels in the three areas.


Amy Witt
November 19, 2007
Impacts of Traffic Noise on Perameles nasuta, Isoodon macrousus, and Hypsiprymnodon moschatus at the Cooper Creek catchment, Queensland, Australia
Mentors: Peter Byrnes, Dr. Robert Eckstein

Abstract: The construction and maintenance of roads, linear clearings, cause many abiotic and biotic impacts.  Traffic noise is one possible cause or factor of the linear barrier effect and avoidance roads cause to species.  Studies on traffic noise have been limited to birds and amphibians.  Little research has been performed to determine the impact of roads on Perameles nasuta, Isoodon macrousus, and Hypsiprymnodon moschatus, and no research has been performed to determine the importance of traffic noise as a cause of the linear barrier effects roads cause.  The purpose of the study was to determine if traffic noise caused a linear barrier to or road avoidance by P.nasuta, I.macrousus, and H.moschatus.  The movements of each species (mean angles and frequencies or road crossings) were determined for the two treatment types, control (c.t.) and traffic noise (t.n.t), through a spool-and-line technique.  The experiment found that the presence of traffic noise did not create a great linear barrier to P.nasuta (c.t.=25% and t.n.t.=67%), H.moschatus (c.t.=25% and t.n.t.=100%), or I.macrousus (c.t.=41% and t.n.t.=0%), but rather the traffic noise possibly attracted H.moschatus and P.nasuta.  Traffic noise did not cause significant avoidance of the pseudo-road to or greatly alter the movements of P.nasuta (p=0.9909) or I.macrousus (p=0.1697), but traffic noise did cause a significant alteration of the movements of H.moschatus (p=0.0399) towards the pseudo-road.  Traffic noise may act as a component of a synergistic effect roads have on animals causing the avoidance of roads or inhibition or road crossing.

Christine Hulburt
November 26, 2007
Ant visitation to extrafloral nectaries of Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) and
the effect on fecundity and foliar damage
Mentor: Dr. Amy Boyd

Abstract: Extrafloral nectaries (EFN) are secretion sites located on the stipules of common vetch (Vicia sativa).  They secrete a sugar solution to attract ants and other insects.  This interaction has been called facultative mutualistic relationship.  In some studies the ants eat the sugar solution and in return they provide protection to the vetch plants by deterring herbivores. The presence of EFN has also been shown to affect the seed set a plant produces. The purpose of the project was to determine if the type (size) of ant present on the plant had an effect on the amount of herbivore damage and the amount of seeds produced by each plant.  The experiment involved a total of 22 plant samples at various locations on the WWC campus. Each sample contained two plants on which I could perform specific treatments.  The nectaries were removed from one plant (A) and left intact for the other plant (B) as a control.  A student blind to my methods observed the amount of damage on each vetch plant.  Seeds were collected from each plant at the termination of the observation period.  I used a non-parametric sign test to compare the difference between the amount of damage to the plants.  There was no difference in the amount of damage on the plants with removed nectaries and the plants whose nectaries remained intact.  I used a paired t-test to compare the amount of seeds produced per pod per plant to the size of the ant. The result was a p-value of 0.124, indicating that there was no significant difference between the size of the ants and the amount of seed produced.  I used a paired t-test to compare the mean number of seeds per pod per plant to the treatment of each plant group (removed nectaries compared to intact nectaries).  This resulted in a p-value of 0.456 indicating that there was no difference between the treatments and the plants set seed.  These results may be because of environmental issues like a late freeze weakening the plants, a lack of rain, and a low level of vetch herbivores in this area. Such environmental factors also make no difference as to what kind of ant is accessing the nectar that the vetch plants are secreting.


Matt Turino
11/26/2007

Levels of Coliform Bacteria in Cafeteria Waste Compost at Warren Wilson College
Mentor: Dr. Jeff Holmes

Abstract: Compost is a common method for recycling nutrients while eliminating pathogens, weed seeds, and plant diseases from bio-solids. On Warren Wilson campus we compost the cafeteria waste by first putting the waste through the green drum bio-digester and then allowing the compost to finish in piles.  An outside contractor has occasionally reported high numbers of fecal coliform bacteria when testing the compost; this inspired a further investigation of the coliform (E. coli) profile of the cafeteria waste compost piles over the course of the piles’ heating and curing periods. During the summer and fall of 2007 temperature data was taken every day in 3 compost piles.  Coliform counts were also made for each of the 3 piles every 2 weeks using MacConkey plates to enumerate the coliforms. The first pile was observed between July 10 and November 10 and began the sampling period with no E. coli present. E. coli  however eventually appeared in plate counts on day 52, rising above the EPA regulatory ceiling for the presence of coliforms in bio-solids. The second pile was observed between August 29 and November 10.  E. coli was not present at the beginning or at the end of the sampling period but emerged and then disappeared during the sampling period.  The third pile was observed between September 6 and November 15 and remained free of E. coli throughout the sampling period.  In each of the piles, the coliform counts showed dramatic variability between samples, sub-samples, and dilutions making it difficult to apply these numbers to an EPA standard. This study highlights the need for new methods in assessing the presence of pathogens in compost.


James Tyson
December 3, 2007
The Habituation of Mimosa pudica
Mentor: Dr. Jeff Holmes

Abstract: Mimosa pudica, also referred to as the Sensitive Plant or Touch-Me-Not, exhibits a form of movement known as seismonastic movement. This movement is a response to stimuli independent of the stimuli direction. Possible stimuli include the shock of touching, shaking, heating, exposure to electricity, etc… The process through which M.  pudica moves is very similar to the functional process of a nerve cell. Habituation is the decrease of behavioral response from repeated stimulation with a stimulus that is neither harmful nor beneficial. Several researchers have determined that M. pudica can habituate in the short and long term. The objective of this study was to confirm if M. pudica would habituate in the short and long term given a set of controls, and if the plant, given a period of habituation, would continue to habituate at a similar rate after a periodic break in habituation. The data collected showed a general decreasing trend in habituation times for all of four groups in two different studies. This suggested that, although M. pudica habituated in the short term, it did not appear to habituate in the long term or after a break in habituation which suggests that the plant was not learning or remembering.
Morgan M Williams
December 3rd 2007
An Ethnographic Survey of The Ceremonial Plant and Animal Use of The Elang’ata-Dapash Maasai.  Longido District, Northern Tanzania.
Mentor: Dr. Michael Torres

Abstract: Human population pressures, alternative land use strategies, and the recent movement of Christianity into East Africa have resulted in great changes to the social customs of the Maasai.  Given that a limited number of historical records on the Maasai in Northern Tanzania exist, this study will serve to document the currently practiced non-Christian ceremonies of the Elang’ata-Dapash Maasai so that future studies may have something to compare against.  Special emphasis was given to the plant and animal resources required for each ceremony.  From April 11th to April 30th 2007, interviews were conducted with 45 males in the arpayan and ngakuyaa age classes, along with three of the four oloiboni (spiritual leaders) from the community.  A detailed description of each non-Christian ceremony was documented, and an ethnobotanical collection of relevant plants was performed.  The information received from the most socially prominent key-informant was given more emphasis if there were significant inconsistencies in the findings.  The ethnographic survey determined that 18 non-Christian ceremonies were currently being practiced, utilizing a total of 36 individual plant species (4 herbs, 3 bushes, 22 trees, 2 grasses, 2 vines, and 3 unknown) and 21 animal products (11 cow, 6 sheep, 1 goat, 3 undomesticated). The most commonly used resources were Calabash (Lagenaria siceraria), Emurwa (Cynodon dactylon), Engaiteteyai (Commelina benghalensis), and cow milk from Bos primigenius indicus, each being required for all 18 ceremonies. 

Hilary Collins
December 10, 2007
Bird Diversity in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park
Mentor: Dr. Bob Eckstein

Abstract:  Bird diversity and abundance may be adversely affected by urbanization.  A large urban park, like the Golden Gate Park, could provide habitat for birds within a city, which lacks natural habitat.  Several varying factors including proximity to water, proximity to busy roads, and human sound were measured in the Golden Gate Park to determine whether they influenced bird abundance and species diversity.  To collect data, six areas or transects (areas with a defined width and length) were visited in the park six times.  When the average number of birds was compared between transects, transects were found to statically differ from each other (p < 0.000).  Overall, no significant differences were found between factors, except proximity to busy roads.  The average number of species significantly differed in areas of low and high traffic (p = 0.035).  Factors may have had more influence on bird diversity and abundance when combined than when separated.  The small sample size may also have been a reason for no significant difference between factors.    Bird diversity could possibly be improved within the park if high traffic was limited in the interior areas of the park.