Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) morphology, parasitology, lek behaviour and abundance, and genotyping in Wyoming from 1987 to 1990
Data rescue intern:
The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a charismatic North American prairie bird. This species engages in a unique breeding behaviour called lekking, where males perform communal breeding displays on historic breeding grounds called leks. These breeding behaviours have led to the development of unique and exaggerated male characteristics such as brightly coloured combs above the eye, noisy mating dances (aka struts), and large inflatable air sacs on the male’s chests.
However, parasites such as lice and avian malaria can affect the reproductive success of males by decreasing strutting frequency and affecting female mate choice. This makes the greater sage-grouse an intriguing species in which to explore the relationship between sexual selection and host-parasite dynamics. This species is also threatened in the US and Canada; so, researching the sage-grouse is important as we assess the impact of human activity on their abundance and behaviour, and on delicate prairie ecosystems as a whole.
The goal of my Living Data Project internship was to rescue data on the greater sage-grouse collected from 1987-1990 by several graduate students in the Dr. Mark Boyce lab at the University of Wyoming. To collect these data, the graduate students observed greater sage-grouse in the field and on their leks, captured them to collect body measurements and blood samples, and observed their development from egg to adult. However, these data were stored on binders and floppy disks for over thirty years and were difficult to use and inaccessible to the public. So, for my internship I digitized five binders and thousands of pages of data on this species, and published them as cleaned .csv files on the University of Alberta Dataverse. These data are now openly available and ready for research use. My hope with these data is that they can assist researchers in investigating a variety of questions related to evolution, sexual selection, and parasitology, as well as promote greater understanding of this unique and important species.
Link to data archive: