MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Amber Wendler, a graduate of the Mahopac High School Class of 2014, has been awarded a prestigious and highly competitive graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

 One key to Wendler’s success is the extensive training in field and lab research she obtained as an undergraduate at Boston University, including her participation in the 2017 marine semester and the 2016 Tropical Ecology Program.

Wendler is currently a first-year PhD student in the biology department at Virginia Tech. Her research concerns the evolution of cooperative breeding, a reproductive strategy that occurs in numerous bird species, in which individuals (called “helpers”) help raise offspring that are not their own.

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Drawn to the tropics, Wendler has decided to pursue her research in Puerto Rico, to investigate Puerto Rican todies, which have been observed to exhibit cooperative breeding in certain environments and not in others. She is interested in what environmental factors may be driving this behavior, and what the costs and benefits are for the “helpers.”

While todies are currently of little conservation concern, the environment is changing in Puerto Rico due to the combined effects of climate change and natural disasters, which will have long-term effects on tody populations. Wendler hopes that increasing general knowledge of these understudied birds will be helpful in informing conservation and management decisions in the future.

Article provided by Boston University Marine Program/Facebook

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