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March 21, 2005

Biologist Wins National Award for Bird Conservation

Chris Elphick
Chris Elphick, with a saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow found at Hammonasett State Park. Elphick was recognized for his work on the conservation and ecology of two species of sparrows.

Photo by Carina Gjerdrum

Chris Elphick, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, received a 2004 Partners in Flight national investigations award for his research contributions to bird conservation.

The award was presented March 17 during the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director’s reception at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Washington, D.C.

Partners in Flight is a partnership among federal, state, and local government agencies, philanthropic and professional organizations, conservation groups, industry, the academic community, and private individuals. Its aim is to focus resources on research, management, and education involving birds and their habitats.

Elphick’s award-winning study focuses on the conservation and ecology of two species of bird in coastal Connecticut: the seaside sparrow and the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, which has been identified as one of the highest priorities for bird conservation research in North America and is considered to be globally vulnerable to extinction.

The study involves a better understanding of the basic ecology of the birds and relating it to population monitoring, salt marsh restoration and management, and land protection.

The work has been funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Audubon Connecticut, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Collaborating with Elphick on the study are Margaret Rubega, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Carina Gjerdrum, a research associate; Erin King, a master’s degree student; and several undergraduates: Ken Henry, Selena Humphries, Moira Ray, and Kira Sullivan-Wiley. Humphries