Amber OnealM.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
B.S. (Ecology & Evolution and Environmental Studies) UC Santa Barbara 1998
Research interests: My interest is in topics of conservation biology, such as reserve design, habitat fragmentation, and habitat restoration. I am also interested in the application of principles of conservation biology to planning policies, such as the Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) and Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plans (MSHCPs), for ecosystem and endangered species management in the highly urbanized southern California landscape.
My thesis is titled Distribution of Riparian Bird Species in an Urbanizing Landscape. I am looking at what spatial scale is important in habitat selection by riparian birds. Specifically, do riparian birds select habitat based on the presence of local microhabitat features (e.g., dominant canopy tree species, dominant understory species, etc.), macrohabitat features (e.g., linear distance and area), or landscape features (e.g., distance to urban edge, amount of fragmentation in landscape)? In Spring/Summer 2003, I conducted point counts at 137 points in Orange County, California along a gradient of urbanization. Microhabitat data was collected in the field, and landscape data was determined using aerial photographs and GIS. Additional point counts will be conducted in Spring/Summer 2004. This study will provide insight into which spatial scale or combination of spatial scales is most important in habitat selection by riparian birds, which occur in a naturally fragmented habitat. In addition, the study will provide insight into whether individual riparian bird species are sensitive to urbanization. This study is one of the few being conducted within a landscape dominated by arid habitats (rather than forests) and assessing the effects of fragmentation resulting from urbanization (rather than agriculture and timber harvest). The results of this study could be applied in reserve design and species conservation.