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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Graduate Exit Seminar via Zoom - James Wright

Plan to join via Zoom, James Wright's graduate exit seminar on April 1, 2022, at 11:00 a.m.  James will present, "Dynamics of a seed dispersal mutualism between avian seed-hoarders and nut-bearing trees: Implications for management of oaks and restoration of American chestnut."

By caching seeds in the autumn for winter consumption, Blue Jays serve as crucial seed dispersers for nut-bearing trees like oaks and American chestnut in eastern hardwood forests. They are especially important for long-distance dispersals leading to tree colonization of new habitats, since other seed dispersers (e.g., squirrels) transport seeds much shorter distances. In my dissertation, I examine aspects of this seed dispersal mutualism to determine how it may influence the ongoing decline of oaks and the anticipated reintroduction of American chestnut. By tracking the seed selection and caching behavior of Blue Jays and other avian seed-hoarders, I quantify the foraging preferences of birds and determine the comparative effectiveness of Blue Jays for dispersing chestnuts and two common acorn species, black oak and white oak. In addition, I use an overwinter survival study and an analysis of long-term datasets to determine the degree to which Blue Jay populations are influenced by changing acorn abundance. My research highlights the importance of considering plant-animal interactions when predicting changes in forest ecosystems, particularly under conditions of rapid environmental change.

Advisor: Dr. Chris Tonra and Dr. Steve Matthews