April 12th, 2023
The data rescue intern:
Long-term time series of observations from focal populations are among the most valuable data ecologists collect, and their preservation is central to understanding historic and future changes in demography and dynamics of wild species. Since 1975, Professor Peter Arcese and his colleagues have monitored a population of Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) on Mandarte Island in the Haro Strait near Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The data are variously collected by Frank S. Tompa 1960-63, James N.M. Smith 1973-81, Peter Arcese 1981 - 87, Wesley Hochachka 1988-89, Alice Cassidy 1990, and again by Peter Arcese and various students, post-docs, and employees 1991-present. Through their intensive monitoring, Arcese and his team have collected more than 40 years of demographic, life-history, and genetics/pedigree data, as well as detailed information on the location of individual birds from nest departure to death. These data have been used to link demography and evolutionary theory, and to address a variety of fundamental questions. Corresponding climatic data are already available online, providing ample opportunity for future analyses. In addition to the long-term monitoring of Mandarte Island, the researchers have also collected similar short-term data from more than a dozen other islands.
This internship was intended to harmonize different sources of data and involved data extraction from paper records and non-proprietary file formats, digitization, data cleaning and validation, and the generation of metadata. Arcese is retiring in three years, therefore, the Living Data Project can assist in making these datasets accessible to the wider scientific audience. The main goal of the Living Data - Mandarte Song Sparrows project was to start rescuing data for adult survival during the breeding season retrospectively since the more recent data collection has been more consistent than in the 80s and 90s. Janaina Serrano from the Pollock Lab at McGill University was the intern responsible for organizing and inputting data from 2022 to 2005. She provided a data management plan, metadata and a how-to guide for other people who will be involved in the project in the future.
Janaina did most of her internship online and had multiple Zoom meetings with Peter Arcese and Joey Burant, who was the LDP post-doc assigned to this project. Janaina had the opportunity to get to know Mandarte Island with Megan Duchesne and Tayse Bryce, who showed her around and were looking for song sparrows in the last week of August 2022. They managed to find some, even though they are currently facing a decline on the island, and seem to be facing competition from another sparrow species, the fox sparrows.
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