Learning from Natural Disaster

Schoodic coastal photoHurricane Sandy, the most deadly storm of the 2012 hurricane season, not only left a lingering path of destruction for our human populations…but also dramatically impacted tidal marsh habitats of birds along the east coastline. Brian Olsen, assistant professor of biology and ecology, has begun gauging restoration of these habitats that was devastated by the violent storm that occurred a little more than two years ago.

Olsen was awarded a $1.4 million grant in order to conduct a 22-month study observing the recovery of birds in tidal marshes from Virginia to Maine.

Researchers from the University of Maine, University of Delaware, University of Connecticut and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife conducted the study, which included data from 10 different states. Olsen and researchers have been analyzing data from two years prior to Hurricane Sandy and two years after the hurricane in order to establish a restoration course of action.

“We hope that this information will help us to increase the resiliency of the region’s marshes to future challenges,” said Olsen.

Also working on the project is Maureen Correll, an ecology and environmental Ph.D. student working in Olsen’s Lab.  She will use the study as part of her dissertation.

The study will explore the storms impact on various aspects of the birds lifestyle and habitat, including reproduction, survival rates of threatened species, and provide data for projections of future storms and their affect on the bird’s habitat.  During the study, he monitored restoration and control sites from Connecticut to Maine.

The major bird species being studied include Clapper rails, Nelson’s sparrows, Saltmarsh sparrows, willets and black ducks.

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