Molly Interprets the Birds

Posted in Blog


The birds that live in and pass through the Hyla Woods forests have much to tell us about the changing health and condition of the forests – if we are paying attention.

Our belief in this is the reason why we have worked hard over the past 15 years to understand what the birds have to teach us.  While we have dramatically improved our monitoring approaches, we have been much slower in developing the analytical strategies to make sense and meaning from our ever growing collection of monitoring data.

We’re fortunate that Molly Hayes chose to fulfill her requirement to write a senior thesis as an environmental biology major at Whitman College by taking the first serious step toward analysis of Hyla Woods bird monitoring data.

We want to thank Molly for taking on this challenging project and doing such a good job with it.  Molly and the rest of the Hyla Woods team also thank  her terrific advisor, Dr. Delbert Hutchison, for the guidance, support, and hard work he contributed to the project.

In a future post, we will ask Molly to summarize the questions and answers that the project explored.  Stay tuned!

thesis front page

molly thesis

In case it is of interest, here is her abstract:

Forestry in Oregon has traditionally used an industrial model aimed to maximize timber production and revenue, with little attention to the potentially negative affects on ecosystem health and biological diversity. However, some landowners have begun experimenting with more sustainable management practices. This study examines the affect of some of these innovative silvicultural techniques on avian abundance and diversity in the Oregon Coast Range. Data on bird number and species were collected across designated stops for three years with each stop characterized by forest type (predominantly Douglas fir, mixed, or predominantly a species other than Douglas fir), understory (woody shrub, fern, or herbaceous), and treatment (control, lightly thinned, thinned, or patch cut). Total number of birds, number of birds in certain foraging guilds, and four indicator songbird species were compared across stops. Because data were collected with no clear analysis in mind, not all combinations of stop characteristics could be considered. Data were analyzed using one and two-way ANOVA, and results were corrected using the Bonferroni correction. While no significant results were found related to forest type or understory, birds clearly preferred the lightly thinned treatment. Studies analyzing all combinations of forest characteristics and comparing sustainably managed forests to industry methods should be implemented to more thoroughly answer the question of what management practices maximize forest ecosystem health.