Directed by Dr. Pete Marra, Laudato Si’ Professor of Biology and the Environment and director of the Earth Commons, the Marra Lab in Georgetown’s Department of Biology studies the ecology and conservation of birds throughout their whole lifecycles. Marra Lab research uses birds to help us define and understand broad environmental issues, tackling contemporary conservation challenges by addressing fundamental knowledge gaps at the intersection of ornithology, ecology and conservation biology.
Migratory connectivity is the geographic and temporal linking of individuals and populations between one life cycle stage and another, such as between breeding and wintering locations for a migratory bird. The Marra Lab has completed or is working on or contributing to many range-wide tracking studies.
The full annual cycle describes a bird’s ecology across the year. The Marra Lab evaluates the impacts of climate on migratory birds in the different stages of their annual cycle in order to assess future effects of climate change on species’ vulnerability and the biology of birds.
Urbanization has altered habitats, restructured avian communities, and influenced the range sizes and population dynamics of animal species. The Marra Lab researches how different anthropogenic changes to the natural world affect population trajectories of birds.
As of October 2019, the Kirtland Warbler’s successful recovery has lead to its removal from the endangered species list. The Marra Lab conducted a 4-year adaptive management experiment to reduce the Warbler’s reliance on conservation efforts.
Although general threats to birds are well known (e.g., habitat loss, anthropogenic causes of mortality), we still cannot point to the specific limiting factors or causes of declines for most bird species. The Marra Lab investigates species- and population-specific limiting factors so conservation resources can be implemented in the highest-priority places
The Migratory Connectivity Project is working on two volume book entitled “Discovering Unknown Migrations: The Atlas of Migratory Connectivity for the Birds of North America.” This book will fill knowledge gap about the migratory connectivity for the birds of North America
Laudato Si’ Professor of Biology and the Environment Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy Director, Georgetown University’s Earth Commons Emeritus Senior Scientist, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Pete comes to Georgetown University after a 20-year career at the Smithsonian Institution, most recently as Director of the Migratory Bird Center. He has a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College and has authored over 225 papers published in journals such as Science, Nature and Conservation Biology on various aspects of the biology and conservation of birds and other animals, as well as on topics as broad as urban disease ecology. He co-edited the frequently cited book – Birds of Two Worlds and recently published a second book – Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of Cuddly Killer. Pete lives in Takoma Park with his wife and two kids, is an avid fisherman, a gardener and cook.
Nathan is a conservation biologist and behavioral ecologist. Nathan strongly values conservation related research and relishes the opportunity to provide useful information to those tasked with managing animal habitats and populations. Early in his career, Nathan recognized the power of manipulative ecological experiments to reveal cause and effect relationships, and uses field-based experiments wherever possible. To further our understanding of the world around us and inform conservation efforts, Nathan has used a variety of tools ranging from simple behavioral observations and population monitoring to more innovative techniques such as 3D territory mapping, light-level geolocation, and radio tracking. He has studied birds during both the breeding season and the wintering period and always tries to approach his research by taking the whole annual cycle into consideration. Currently, Nathan is studying the behavioral ecology and conservation biology of Kirtland’s Warblers.
Bryant is trained as a behavioral and population ecologist. His research interests primarily focus on the linkages between animal movement and population ecology with special interests dealing with populations of migratory land birds. His work on the ecology of migratory birds began with his work on differential migration in a population of Savanna Sparrows at Bowdoin College under Nat Wheelwright. Since then he has undertaken numerous field research positions working with the Black-throated Blue warblers at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, the stopover ecology of passerine migrants on the Gulf Coast with the University of Southern Mississippi, to the winter ecology of American redstarts in Jamaica with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. His MSc focused on the stopover ecology of migratory warblers in the Great Lakes. By utilizing an automated radio telemetry array, he was able to determine the factors that influence migratory movement dynamics across western Lake Erie and Southern Ontario with implications on wind energy development throughout the Great Lakes. Bryant is currently pursuing his PhD at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where he has returned to work in Jamaica on American Redstarts (advisors: Peter Marra & Amanda Rodewald) looking to develop upon his interests in the movement, behavioral, and population ecology of migratory birds.
Calandra is interested in the behavioral ecology and conservation of migratory birds. Her research aims to understanding how migratory birds interact with their environment throughout their annual cycle using both laboratory and field studies. For her postdoctoral research she is using satellite transmitters to track Yellow-billed cuckoos in order to study their movement ecology and identify spatiotemporal patterns of mortality. Stanley earned her bachelor’s and master’s of science in biology from York University, Canada, and her Ph.D. in biological sciences at the University of Maryland under the supervision of Dr. Peter Marra and Dr. Michele Dudash.
Henry graduated from Tufts University (Roll ‘Bos) in 2019 with a joint BS in Biology and Environmental Science. He grew up in Exeter, NH, where he discovered his passion for ornithology. He LOVES birds, and his desire to understand their ecology is what gets him out of bed in the morning (#ForTheBirds). Henry’s research interests lie at the intersection of conservation ornithology and tropical ecology, and his past research has focused on the breeding biology and dispersal of Gray Vireos (Vireo vicinior) in New Mexico, the use of remote audio recorders for surveying cryptic species in the Amazon, improving the conservation site network for migratory shorebirds in the Americas, and uncovering the life histories of Andean Cock-of-the-rocks (Rupicola peruvianus) and other understudied species in the cloud forests of Ecuador. At Georgetown, Henry plans to study the full annual cycle of Neotropical migratory wood-warblers, and use integrated population models to pinpoint factors driving their declines. With over 3.2 billion individual birds lost in North America since 1970, understanding and addressing the threats faced by these species is paramount for mitigating further declines.
Emily is an avian ecologist that has been working with birds for the last ten years. She comes to the Marra lab from working for the National Park Service in Alaska, where she studied the movements, ecology, and behavior of Denali’s resident and migratory birds. Prior to working at Denali National Park and Preserve, Emily completed her MSc at Kansas State University investigating the patterns and mechanisms to within-season breeding dispersal in grassland sparrows. Emily received her BSc in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and BA degree in English literature from the University of Florida. Emily’s research interests center in migration ecology, with a particular interest in the evolutionary and ecological processes that give rise to variation in migratory behavior. Emily’s PhD research will focus on understanding the drivers that lead to different migratory strategies between palearctic and Nearctic migratory birds. Beyond her academic interests, Emily is passionate about outreach and the accessibility of science, and never foregoes an opportunity to get people excited about birds.