Dear La Paz Group followers,
I’m excited to have been invited to share with you current updates from the Cordillera Central of the Dominican Republic where I am active in uncovering the life history traits and conservation strategies surrounding the Golden Swallow (Tachycineta euchrysea), a threatened passerine endemic to the island of Hispaniola.
The initial ambition and effort to better understand this swallow generated from a larger project under the direction of Cornell University’s Dr. David W. Winkler, entitled ‘Golondrinas de las Americas’, or ‘Swallows of the Americas’. This project spanned the entire length of the western hemisphere, aimed at testing hypotheses that explain variation in clutch size of swallows in the genus Tachycineta. In 2008, field biologists both from the United States and the Dominican Republic constructed a series of nest boxes in the high mountains of Parque Valle Nuevo where they hoped to attract a returning population of breeding Golden Swallows. Four years later, with news of success, the scene was set for a team to return to the Dominican Republic and undertake a full investigation of the species. I proposed the idea of spearheading this study as a master’s thesis to Cornell University and the National Science Foundation, both of whom were strongly receptive.
In the summer of 2012, accompanied by an Argentinian biology student named Marisol Mata, we spent three months in the high altitude, remote pine forests of the DR’s Parque Valle Nuevo where we were able to document the reproductive strategies of the Golden Swallow and begin applying that information to monitoring and educational outreach programs. The project is meant to act as a catalyst between communities and the environment, using the swallows as a tool to project larger ideas of conservation, sustainability, and stewardship. Our research rigorously tests life history theory, offering insight into species habitat and resource preference that can be directly applied to short- and long-term management and sustainability efforts for the existing populations. We are additionally focused on training and developing Dominican students into capable avian field biologists while continuing to amplify our collaborations with an array of stakeholders and conservation initiatives throughout the Caribbean.
Marisol and I have just returned to begin our second field season. This time around we will be busier than ever before, as we attack with vigor a plethora of new ideas developed out of the experiences and information that was gained during our last field season. We hope that you enjoy following our progress and adventures as we continue to get a closer look into the life of this beautiful bird.
You can read more about the swallow project in my personal blog as well.