The United States Fish and Wildlife Services has recently showed ongoing support to Dr. Bernard Lohr for the development of behavioral methodologies for saving the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow from extinction. The support comes in the form of a grant awarded to Lohr’s lab to facilitate the investigation of breeding a local close relative of the Florida sparrows in captivity in the hope that they will produce viable offspring that can eventually be re-introduced into the wild. Currently there are fewer than 200 Grasshopper Sparrows left in their Florida habitat, categorizing them as “critically endangered.” Graduate students, Sarah Luttrell and Archer Larned, are working alongside Lohr both in the lab and in the field to discover the optimal conditions under which the sparrows breed and rear their offspring. Results from the studies conducted in Lohr’s lab will be conveyed to scientists in Florida to assist with ongoing conservation efforts there. Lohr’s interest in auditory sensory ecology originally sparked his curiosity about the Florida Sparrow seeing as they are one of the few breeds of small song birds that can hear at high pitched frequencies. “It turns out it’s one of those things where the answers you get raise more questions, and more questions, that turn out to be fascinating in and off themselves,” said Lohr of his work with the birds. The dedication of over 20 years of his life to working with birds has not only led Lohr to being on the path to bringing back a vital species from near extinction, but has also granted him the honor of being made an elective member of the American Ornithologist’s Union.
By: Caitlin Kowalewski