Canadian Sparrows – SHARP travels to Nova Scotia

By: Adrienne Kovach @UNH

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Photo by Mo Correll

In July, while attending the annual meeting of the Association of Field Ornithologists, Society of Canadian Ornithologists, and Wilson Ornithological Society in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, several members of the SHARP team collected data on Canadian Maritime Nelson’s Sparrows with the help of a local citizen scientist, Alix d’Entremont. We captured and banded 20 sparrows in Yarmouth and Wolfville and took blood samples for future genetic and genomic analyses, morphological measurements, and systematic photos of the plumage. The data that we collected will contribute to several ongoing SHARP studies. Genomic and morphological data will be used in the postdoctoral research of Jennifer Walsh, in a historical analysis of the Saltmarsh-Nelson’s Sparrows hybrid zone through 100-year temporal comparison. Specifically, the genetic composition of the Yarmouth birds will provide a baseline for a “pure” population of Nelson’s Sparrow outside of the hybrid zone, and the modern samples will be compared to museum specimens from the 1920s. High-resolution photographs will be used with image analysis to quantify variation in plumage traits and to track changes in introgression of these traits over time. Genomic analyses also contribute to ongoing research at the University of New Hampshire to characterize adaptive variation with respect to ecological divergence and speciation in Saltmarsh and Nelson’s Sparrows.

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A specialized camera mount was made to standardize the photos of the captured birds. Photo by Mo Correll.

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