Sarah Deckel (she/her)Sarah Deckel

Environmental Conservation

Contact: , @chasingSWTH

Advisors: David King and Alexander Gerson

Mechanistic drivers that affect the breeding biology of a Neotropical songbird within a montane ecosystem

Songbirds within northeastern montane ecosystems face a variety of ecological challenges during the breeding season, including depredation, intra/interspecific competition for territory and habitat selection, temperature and precipitation changes, and resource availability. Though it is well known that bird populations all across North America are in steep decline, little research is done on the mechanistic drivers of breeding success in songbirds, particularly along an elevational gradient. My PhD research focuses on these drivers that influence breeding success within the Swainson’s thrush (Catharus ustulatus), a Neotropical migratory songbird that breeds along a wide elevational range (200-1,300m) in the White Mountain National Forest, NH. Specifically, I’m interested in 1) the effects of abiotic and biotics factors on nesting success, 2) changes in Swainson’s thrush diet along the elevation gradient, throughout the breeding season using stable isotope analysis and DNA metabarcoding, 3) arrival date along the gradient using audio recorders, and 4) whether nest insulation and structure differs at low vs high elevations.


  • NE Climate Adaptation Science Center (2019)
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (GRFP)