Sam Merker

Check out google scholar page

Check out Ebird profile

Vice President of Oconee Rivers Audubon Society (2017-2021)

Perhaps my last look out over Coweeta (May 2021)…but probably not.

Life after graduate school: I am moving to Connecticut to join Dr. Chris Elphick’s lab. I will also work with Dr. Morgan Tingely. I will be working on the Connecticut Bird Atlas. Very exciting times.

Just look at that beard…

Doctoral Student: For the daily visitor to this site, SUPRISE! My dissertation focuses on trailing-edge songbird populations in the mountains of North Carolina. Canada warbler, black-throated blue warbler, and hooded warbler remain focal species of the project Occasionally dabble in wood thrush. I have just finished (as of July 19, 2020) swapping eggs across elevations. So far. So good. A bear of a chapter this will be. And maybe by Yoda written it will be. I am also looking at blood slides with help from Betsy Kurimo-Beechuck in the Spatial Ecology Lab at UGA. Betsy showed me the ropes on how to ID blood parasites, and then I got to show Hadiza and Aseel. We recently found some microfilaria (see below), which was gross but also incredibly cool. Primarily we find mostly Leukocytozoon and Haemoproteus. Two of my chapters are published! Who wouldathunkit? Go back up top and check out that google scholar page. As for the rest of my dissertation my guess is it will be finished before TWOW but who knows. Stay tuned for more exciting news!

Hooded warbler female on incubating
Female black-throated blue warbler incubating – photo credit Clayton Delancey

Master’s Student: Although my PhD work had a similar focus my MS was also spent investigating factors that limit species distributions at their low-latitude (warm-edge)┬árange limit. Considering that it is a fundamental question in ecology, little is known about what factors limit species distributions at the warm-edge. A lot of work has focused on this question but there are few studies that provide direct answers. It is of even greater importance to have a mechanistic understanding of these factors because of the observed shift in species ranges, seemingly as a result of climate change. Many believe that abiotic factors such as temperature and precipitation primarily limit species distributions at the warm-edge while others believe that it is biotic factors like competition. In my research I employed different field experiments and observations combined with sophisticated modeling to account for the potential interaction between abiotic and biotic factors in limiting species distributions at the warm-edge.

Life Before Graduate School: I worked as a field tech for 11 seasons (not 11 years) studying birds of all shapes and sizes in different states and countries. In my free time I play ultimate frisbee, photograph birds (sometimes other wildlife), read science fiction, and delve into the deepest realms of heavy metal I can find.

Me (the one clearly taking a selfy), Angela, and Alex banding songbirds in NC – 2016 (I think…)
A lovely male SCTA from our field site. Photo cerca 2014 but who really knows…
Microfilaria 2020 – taken just before lockdown.
This NESP was found in 2015 at our study site in NC in an old beaver meadow at around 1200m elevation. It was never seen again but this is one of the few records of this species in western North Carolina
Is this the most intense photo of a CAWA you have ever seen? – 2015? 2016? one of those