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A Past Grad Student Reflects


Stacy Small, PhD
Stacy Small takes a bird out of a mistnet along the Shore of Lake Erie in 2006.

A past "PRBO graduate student" and currently a conservation scientist working in the Washington, D.C., office of Environmental Defense Fund (Land, Water & Wildlife Program).

Doctorate completed in 2006 at University of Missouri–Columbia, Division of Biological Sciences, Avian Ecology Lab. Advisor: Dr. John Faaborg. Earned a Student Research Presentation Award from Cooper Ornithological Society. Invited to give a presentation this August in the Association of Field Ornithologists Most Cited Papers symposium.

Focus of research: Breeding ecology of songbirds nesting in a riparian restoration context. What are the factors influencing nest survival in the Sacramento Valley, where major riparian restoration efforts have been underway for over a decade?

In Stacy's own words:
A deep lover of rivers: Stacy Small.

"I have a deep love of rivers and birds. I spent most of my childhood and teen days walking or reading along the banks of the Ohio River, in an industrial region downstream from Pittsburgh. There I developed a love and curiosity for the history of this "drowned" and damaged river, and I actively imagined not only its past glories but what the potential might be for its recovery.

"During my undergraduate studies of ornithology and restoration ecology, the idea of looking at riparian restoration through the perspective of bird life came to me through producing a series of written papers and journal entries. I first decided to apply for a PRBO internship when I learned about the Sacramento River Project, because PRBO was one of the early organizations looking at birds breeding on riparian restoration sites.

"Luckily I got to spend a couple of years at Palomarin Field Station, honing my nest searching skills, before the opportunity to head out to the Valley opened up. I spent six consecutive field seasons on the Sacramento River sites, three of those driving cross-country to and from Missouri after I enrolled in the doctoral program there.

"PRBO gave me an opportunity to pursue a career pathway that developed from creative daydreaming as a kid, to college writing, to actual empirical research with real-world conservation implications for rivers and bird populations.

"My time as a PRBO intern and then staff biologist was one of the most significant segments of my career pathway. It was there that I learned to really observe bird behavior and understand habitat, while collecting and managing quality data to support conservation research and monitoring, and I deeply value this affiliation today. One of the intangibles that has come from my experience at PRBO is the gratification that interns and field assistants who launched their avian ecology careers training on my project are now themselves leading important field projects and pursuing advanced degrees in ornithology.

"While my work has expanded beyond just birds, it is still tightly focused on wildlife ecology, but with a national policy dimension. Having developed a strong grasp on research and monitoring and the fundamentals of habitat restoration, I am trying to invest some time now in making sure the best science gets translated into sound national policy that supports wildlife, habitat, and ecosystems across the continent. In addition to writing up some of the final results of my dissertation, I am contributing to policy discussions and papers, and seeking new research collaboration opportunities.

"I am now adjunct faculty at Fordham University where I have the pleasure of interacting with graduate students studying bog turtle response to