Since 2014, the Hawaii VINE (Vertebrate Introductions in Novel Ecosytems) Project has been exploring how native ecosystems on in Hawaii have been impacted by numerous introductions of bird and rat species, which have replaced the declining native birds as the primary dispersers of native plants. Specifically, this work explores how bird and rat behavioral variation (movement, predator avoidance, and competitive interactions) acts as selective drivers of variation in seed dispersal and recruitment across ecological gradients in Hawaii. In papers published in Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we have explored how species roles (i.e. generalist, specialist) impact network robustness at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Understanding the importance of specific species roles will help land managers in Hawaii make decisions about out-planting schedules and invasive plant control.
Funded work in the Behavioral Complexity Lab is examining how fruit coloration is perceived by birds in different invaded landscapes and how this impacts seed dispersal effectiveness. We are taking a generalized approach to this endeavor by approaching coloration of different fruits as competing information sources that provide mutual information to avian foragers.
This project has employed dozens of field technicians and several graduate students and has provided infrastructure for hundreds of hours of outreach in Hawaii.