Undergrad Studies Urban Impact on Hummingbirds

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Math and computational biology major Megan Wheeler ’13 spent five weeks this summer observing hummingbird populations in Claremont, Calif.

The project is the first in a series of studies that may offer insight into potential human impacts upon the birds, starting with how the use of feeders and plants to attract hummingbirds may be affecting the birds’ population and behavior. In addition to their beauty, hummingbirds are important pollinators and insect controllers.

For her project, Wheeler spent several weeks reviewing past research conducted on the subject and consulting key faculty members across The Claremont Colleges. She then selected eight natural sites and 16 urban sites to study, keeping half of each type as control sites. She posted and maintained feeders at the other half and conducted timed point counts at each site over the course of five weeks.

Funded by the Center for Environmental Studies, the project was part of Harvey Mudd College’s Summer Research program, which engages students in 10 weeks of full-time research.