Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation


Ecology and Conservation of Shrubland Birds


makresh at
Ag. Engineering Annex A


Research and Teaching Assistant



US Forest Service, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Blodget Fund,Wilson Ornithological Society, American Ornithologists’ Union, Cooper Ornithological Society, Gerace Research Centre, and American Wildlife Conservation Foundation

Faculty Advisor:

Dr. David King

Project abstract:

Early-successional, scrub-shrub habitats have been recently declining in the northeastern United States due to fire suppression, silviculture, and development. Pitch pine-scrub oak (PPSO) barrens and utility right-of-ways represent two habitats that are actively managed as early-successional habitat and appear to provide habitat for declining prairie warblers (Dendroica discolor) and other shrubland bird specialists.

The objectives of the study are to assess current habitat management and provide detailed information on the ecology and conservation of scrub-shrub birds in managed PPSO barrens and utility rights-of-way. Our focus will primarily be on prairie warblers, a high priority bird species in the northeast. We will be examining the effects of management on prairie warbler abundance, age composition, dispersal, and reproductive success in different habitats. We will also be examining habitat characteristics and other factors affecting nest success and nest-site selection of prairie warblers.

We are also beginning new research on prairie warblers in their non-breeding habitat in the Caribbean. Migratory bird populations are dependent on numerous sites along their migration routes, and understanding habitat quality in both the non-breeding and breeding habitats is crucial to conserving migratory bird populations. We will investigate prairie warbler territoriality and habitat use on the wintering grounds, as well as attempt to examine carry-over effects between non-breeding and breeding habitats using stable isotope analysis.


Akresh, M. E., D. R. Ardia, and D. I. King. Submitted. Effect of nest characteristics on thermal properties, clutch size, and reproductive performance for an open-cup nesting songbird. Avian Biology Research.

Akresh, M. E., D. I. King, B. C. Timm, and R. T. Brooks. Submitted. Fuels management and habitat restoration activities benefit Eastern Hognose Snakes (Heterodon platirhinos) in a disturbance-dependent ecosystem. Journal of Herpetology.

Byers, B. E., M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2016. Song and male quality in prairie warblers. Ethology 122:660-670.

Akresh, M. E., and D. I. King. 2016. Eastern whip-poor-will breeding ecology in relation to habitat management in a pitch pine-scrub oak barren. Wildlife Society Bulletin 40:97-105.

Akresh, M. E., and D. I. King. 2015. Observations of new bird species for San Salvador Island, The Bahamas. Caribbean Naturalist 26:1-10.

Byers, B. E., M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2015. A proxy of social mate choice in prairie warblers is correlated with consistent, rapid, low-pitched singing. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69:1275-1286.

Akresh, M. E., D. I. King, and R. T. Brooks. 2015. Demographic response of a shrubland bird to habitat creation, succession, and disturbance in a dynamic landscape. Forest Ecology and Management 336:72-80.

Jones, T. M., M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2013. Recent sightings of Kirtland’s Warblers on San Salvador Island, The Bahamas. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125:637-642.

Byers, B. E., B. A. Kramer, M. E. Akresh, and D. I. King. 2013. Interspecific song imitation by a Prairie Warbler. Journal of Field Ornithology 84:181-186.

Riba-Hernandez, L., M. E. Akresh, W. Hernandez, and D. Martinez. 2012. A nocturnal flight record of Swainson’s Hawks (Buteo swainsoni) and Turkey Vultures (Cathartes Aura) during fall migration in Costa Rica. Journal of Raptor Research 46:234-235.

King, D. I., S. Schlossberg, R. T. Brooks, and M. E. Akresh. 2011. Effects of fuel reduction on birds in pitch pine–scrub oak barrens of the United States. Forest Ecology and Management 261:10-18.

Akresh, M. E., K. Dinse, J. Foufopoulos, S. C. Schubel, and T. Kowalczyk. 2009. Passerine breeding and post-fledgling habitat use in riparian and upland temperate forests of the American Midwest. The Condor 111:756-762.