With the new year, VCE welcomes post-doc Jason Hill, who has relocated from State College, PA to launch our 3-year, nationwide project studying the migration ecology of Upland Sandpipers and Grasshopper Sparrows. Spring will find him traveling, with a cadre of field technicians, to various Department of Defense installations, fitting the birds with geolocators to track their movements over the coming year. Data from the geolocators will yield insights about their migration pathways and wintering areas for populations from across their breeding ranges.
Jason will contribute to a number of other VCE grassland initiatives as well, including the Upper Valley Grassland Ambassadors project. In this effort, VCE and our volunteer collaborators (namely, interested grasslands owners) will reach out to the many Upper Valley landowners of grassland habitat, offering technical advice and resources to enhance habitat for Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and other grassland birds.
Jason grew up in central Iowa, which served as the home base for many travel adventures with his family. When the time came for college, the taste for adventure drew him far afield. He landed in Missoula at the University of Montana, where he earned a BS in Wildlife Biology. Following graduation in 2001, Jason traveled as a field biologist, studying sea otters from a lighthouse in California, house wrens at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, and endangered Red Cockaded Woodpeckers in Florida. His MS thesis at the University of Connecticut investigated the movement ecology of Saltmarsh Sparrows along Long Island Sound using radio tags. His dissertation examined the intersection of population ecology and ecological restoration, as he investigated the population dynamics of grassland sparrows on reclaimed surface mine grasslands.
“Jason’s expertise in the field of grassland bird ecology, his strong background in quantitative analysis, and his commitment to science-driven conservation make him a great fit for us here at VCE,” says Rosalind Renfrew, VCE conservation biologist and leader of the VCE grasslands program.
Jason and his wife Katie, a geographer who works in riparian conservation and restoration, are avid rock climbers. A card-carrying “bird geek,” Jason is a passionate birder who serves as an eBird coordinator for central Pennsylvania in his spare time. We look forward to his contributions to the local birding community and fully expect to see his name on the 2015 county bird quest challenge board!