Coastal Waters Consortium, former postdoctoral associate and collaborating scientist, Jill Olin, recently published “Seaside Sparrows reveal contrasting food web responses to large-scale stressors” in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecosphere, 8(7):e01878. 10.1002/ecs2.1878. Co-authors are CWC collaborators are Christine M. Bergeron Burns, Stefan Woltmann, Sabrina S. Taylor, Philip C. Stouffer, Wokil Bam, Linda Hooper-Bui and R. Eugene Turner. The publication was awarded the “Best Publication of 2016” by the Louisiana Association of Professional Biologists.
The focal organism was the Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus), which is endemic to saltmarshes and relies completely on the habitat and resources they provide; thus, the sparrows can serve as indicators of ecological change in response to disturbances. The study followed food web pathways for birds residing in oiled and unoiled saltmarshes for the four years following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill by quantifying the bulk carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes and fatty acid profiles of liver tissues, in addition to primary producers (e.g., marsh grasses) and invertebrate consumers representing the major energy resources in these systems.
Despite widespread concern for the saltmarsh ecosystem after the DWH event, the significant effects noted at the population level translated into only subtle differences to the flow of energy through this food web. These results demonstrate varying responses to different degrees of landscape-level disturbance, such as oil and hurricanes, and establishes the need to better understand food web dynamics in these saltmarsh ecosystems.
Dr. Olin is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences at State University of New York, Stony Brook University. She will join the Michigan State Technological University in fall 2017.