Shilo Felton

Global Change Fellow Alumna | Department of Applied Ecology | North Carolina State University

Fall 2017 & 2016-2017 Global Change Fellow

Where are they now?

Shilo is now working as a non-game wildlife biologist at the Rhode Island division of fish and wildlife.

Statement of purpose:

Coastal ecosystem health is largely influenced by anthropogenic activity. Shorebird communities are particularly vulnerable to such influences, due to their long migrations, niche specialization, vulnerable nest locations, and use of sandy beach habitats. Increased building development and recreational use of beaches directly limits access to foraging and nesting habitats, while indirectly increasing densities of generalist predators. Human-induced climate change threatens to alter the habitat and coastal ecosystem that shorebirds rely on. For a great majority of the species which will be subjected to the environmental effects of a changing climate, we know very little about how these changes will influence the species. I look forward to contributing to the body of research to understand these systems in hopes of providing knowledge to better manage biodiversity in the face conflicting stakeholder interests and global climate change.

Description of research:

My current research as a doctoral student aims to answer questions regarding American Oystercatcher populations that allow the National Park Service to make well-informed management decisions with regard to this species. The American Oystercatcher is an ideal subject to study the effects of management actions on conservation of coastal ecosystems. It is a large (400-700 grams) conspicuous shorebird species, with black head, white breast, and bright orange bill, making it a relatively easy species to monitor. As part of a greater effort to understand the population’s status and movement patterns, members of the American Oystercatcher Working Group have been capturing, banding, and reporting re-sighted bands for individuals since 1999. Relying on coastal habitats for nesting and foraging of marine mollusks, the species is subject to many of the same factors which potentially threaten other coastal avian species, including increases in coastal development and human recreation, heightened predation pressures, loss of nesting habitat to sea level rise, and decreases in a reliable food supply. As part of my dissertation, I am researching the effects of these threats on oystercatcher population dynamics over a large spatial and temporal scales, with help from the Working Group’s collaborative banding-resight database. This research will address Science Themes 4: Ecological Research and Modeling, and 5: Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal and Nearshore Marine Environments.