Scott R Mcwilliams

Scott R Mcwilliams
University of Rhode Island | URI · Department of Natural Resources Science

Univ California Davis, PhD

About

192
Publications
36,027
Reads
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4,552
Citations
Additional affiliations
August 2009 - December 2015
The University of Western Ontario
Position
  • Visiting Research Scientist
September 2006 - September 2010
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Position
  • Visiting Research Professor
January 1998 - present
University of Rhode Island
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (192)
Article
How postbreeding habitat quality and body composition of migratory birds carry over to influence fall migration strategies and residency merits consideration when creating cross-seasonal conservation plans, especially in breeding populations that are partial migrants. We assessed the influence of postbreeding habitat quality on departure body compo...
Article
During migratory stopovers, birds must make decisions about when and where to travel and these decisions are likely contingent on their fuel stores, food availability, and antioxidant capacity as well as seasonal changes in key environmental factors. We conducted a field experiment on an offshore stopover site (Block Island, Rhode Island, United St...
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We respond to a surging interest in science communication training for graduate scientists by advocating for a focus on rhetorically informed approaches to STEM writing and its assessment. We argue that STEM communication initiatives would benefit by shifting from a strategic focus on products to a flexible understanding of writing as a practice wo...
Chapter
Migratory birds face a host of physiological challenges during their annual peregrinations including (a) maintaining synchrony with the changing environments encountered as they migrate by relying on environmental cues in conjunction with endogenous rhythms to coordinate patterns of movement and stasis; (b) using fats as their primary fuel to satis...
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Ecologically-relevant factors such as exercise and diet quality can directly influence how physiological systems work including those involved in maintaining oxidative balance; however, to our knowledge, no studies to date have focused on how such factors directly affect expression of key components of the endogenous antioxidant system (i.e., trans...
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There is an urgent need for scientists to improve their communication skills with the public, especially for those involved in applying science to solve conservation or human health problems. However, little research has assessed the effectiveness of science communication training for applied scientists. We responded to this gap by developing a new...
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Scientists in applied fields, including conservation biology, face increasing expectations to communicate their research across multiple audiences. As environmental issues become more complex, the need for scientists to clearly communicate with other scientists, managers, stakeholders, tribes, the public, and policy makers becomes ever critical. De...
Article
Plasma metabolites such as triglyceride (TRIG) can be useful indicators of when birds are in a state of fattening or fasting, although the challenges of processing, storing, and analyzing field-collected plasma samples may limit its use by field ornithologists. We evaluated the use of a field-usable point-of-care (POC) analyzer (CardioChek PA analy...
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Animals dynamically adjust their physiology and behavior to survive in changing environments, and seasonal migration is one life stage that demonstrates these dynamic adjustments. As birds migrate between breeding and wintering areas, they incur physiological demands that challenge their antioxidant system. Migrating birds presumably respond to the...
Article
Birds, like other vertebrates, rely on a robust antioxidant system to protect themselves against oxidative imbalance caused by energy-intensive activities such as flying. Such oxidative challenges may be especially acute for females during spring migration, since they must pay the oxidative costs of flight while preparing for reproduction; however,...
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We conducted the first validation of the deuterium dilution method as a nonlethal technique for estimating the body composition of a shorebird during fall staging as birds fatten in preparation for their migration. For this validation, we captured male (n = 12) and female (n = 8) American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) in the fall of 2018 and 2019 in so...
Article
Sea ducks exhibit complex movement patterns throughout their annual cycle; most species use distinct molting and staging sites during migration and disjunct breeding and wintering sites. Although research on black scoters (Melanitta americana) has investigated movements and habitat selection during winter, little is known about their annual‐cycle m...
Article
Wild birds must consume certain amounts of protein and an appropriate balance of amino acids while inhabiting environments where foods often differ in the quantity and quality of available protein. The requirements for amino acids are well documented for domestic bird species but are largely unknown for wild birds, which makes it impossible to reli...
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Many temperate passerine bird species switch from diets of mostly invertebrates in the spring and summer to diets that include fruit and seeds in the fall and winter. However, relatively few studies have quantified diet composition or the extent of seasonal shifts during the non-breeding period, particularly among species and across communities wit...
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Whether dietary antioxidants are effective for alleviating oxidative costs associated with energy-demanding life events first requires they are successfully absorbed in the digestive tract and transported to sites associated with reactive species production (e.g. the mitochondria). Flying birds are under high energy and oxidative demands, and altho...
Article
Migratory birds engage in 2 periods of endurance flight annually as they travel between summer breeding and overwintering grounds, and such endurance flights likely incur oxidative costs. These costs may differ between fall and spring migration, especially for females who must prepare for breeding and egg laying in spring. The objective of this stu...
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Multiple studies have demonstrated that diet (e.g., fatty acid composition, antioxidants) and exercise training affect the metabolic performance of songbirds during aerobic activity, although the physiological mechanisms that cause such an effect remain unclear. We tested the hypothesis that elevated proportions of dietary linoleic acid (18:2n6) an...
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en The size of the pectoral muscle is an important component of body condition in birds and has been linked to indices of fitness and migratory performance. Bauchinger et al. (2011. Journal of Ornithology 152: 507–514) developed, calibrated, and validated an aluminum “muscle meter” device that estimates the size of pectoral muscles noninvasively. T...
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Elite human and animal athletes must acquire the fuels necessary for extreme feats, but also contend with the oxidative damage associated with peak metabolic performance. Here, we show that a migratory bird with fuel stores composed of more omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) expended 11% less energy during long-duration (6 hr) flights with no chan...
Article
Training and diet are hypothesized to directly stimulate key molecular pathways that mediate animal performance, and flight-training, dietary fats, and dietary antioxidants are likely important in modulating molecular metabolism in migratory birds. This study experimentally investigated how long-distance flight-training as well as diet composition,...
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Long-distance migration presents complex conservation challenges, and migratory species often experience shortfalls in conservation due to the difficulty of identifying important locations and resources throughout the annual cycle. In order to prioritize habitats for conservation of migratory wildlife, it is necessary to understand how habitat need...
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Studies of the effects of transmitters on wildlife often focus on survival. However, sublethal behavioral changes resulting from radio-marking have the potential to affect inferences from telemetry data and may vary based on individual and environmental characteristics. We used a long-term, multi-species tracking study of sea ducks to assess behavi...
Article
Glucocorticoids (GCs) are metabolic hormones that promote catabolic processes, which release stored energy and support high metabolic demands such as during prolonged flights of migrating birds. Dietary antioxidants (e.g. anthocyanins) support metabolism by quenching excess reactive oxygen species produced during aerobic metabolism and also by acti...
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Synopsis Little is known about how songbirds modulate sleep during migratory periods. Due to the alternation of nocturnal endurance flights and diurnal refueling stopovers, sleep is likely to be a major constraint for many migratory passerine species. Sleep may help to increase the endogenous antioxidant capacity that counteracts free radicals prod...
Article
Umbrella species management offers a potential solution to the financial and logistical challenges of managing for the many declining species in early-successional forests, a habitat that is also critical for many mature and young forest songbird species during the post-fledging and post-breeding period. We investigated the movements of adult Easte...
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Abstract Dietary micronutrients have the ability to strongly influence animal physiology and ecology. For songbirds, dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and antioxidants are hypothesized to be particularly important micronutrients because of their influence on an individual's capacity for aerobic metabolism and recovery from extended bouts...
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American woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter woodcock) habitat use or selection has been studied extensively since the mid-1960s; most such studies, however, have taken place when and where young forest habitat selected by woodcock was relatively common. Woodcock population declines have been mostly attributed to loss of young forest vegetation typ...
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Engaging private landowners in the conservation of American woodcock (Scolopax minor; hereafter, wood-cock) in the northeastern United States is important because most forests in the region are privately owned. For this reason , a consortium of conservation agencies in the region has been encouraging private landowners to create young forest vegeta...
Article
We present observations of breeding behaviors exhibited by a bilateral gynandromorph Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) in Rhode Island during June and July 2017. The individual had the black plumage of a male towhee on the left side of its body and brownish plumage of a typical female towhee on the right side of its body. We observed this in...
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The acute effects of an energy-intensive activity such as exercise may alter an animal's redox homeostasis, although these short-term effects may be ameliorated by chronic exposure to that activity, or training, over time. Although well documented in mammals, how energy-intensive training affects the antioxidant system and damage by reactive specie...
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Each spring and fall, millions of normally diurnal birds switch to migrating at night. Most of these are small songbirds (passerine) migrating long distances that need to alternate their migratory flights with refueling stopovers [1, 2], which can account for up to 80% of the total migratory period [3]. After a long nocturnal flight, these birds fa...
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Conservation of long‐distance migratory species poses unique challenges. Migratory connectivity, that is, the extent to which groupings of individuals at breeding sites are maintained in wintering areas, is frequently used to evaluate population structure and assess use of key habitat areas. However, for species with complex or variable annual cycl...
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Stable isotope-based methods have proved to be immensely valuable for ecological studies ranging in focus from animal movements to species interactions and community structure. Nevertheless, the use of these methods is dependent on assumptions about the incorporation and turnover of isotopes within animal tissues, which are oftentimes not explicitl...
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The multiscale nature of habitat selection during the breeding season for migratory birds means that core-use areas (e.g., breeding territories) are selected based on their local habitat features, but these may also be influenced in some way by features within a larger-scale landscape. We conducted a reciprocal transplant experiment to test the hyp...
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Modeling organism distributions from survey data involves numerous statistical challenges, including accounting for zero‐inflation, overdispersion, and selection and incorporation of environmental covariates. In environments with high spatial and temporal variability, addressing these challenges often requires numerous assumptions regarding organis...
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Southern New England provides key wintering habitat for White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fusca). This area has also pioneered the development of offshore wind energy in North America. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has established 9 Wind Energy Area (WEA) lease blocks along the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf in areas that may pr...
Article
Although tissue fatty acid (FA) composition has been linked to whole-animal performance (e.g., aerobic endurance, metabolic rate, postexercise recovery) in a wide range of animal taxa, we do not adequately understand the pace of changes in FA composition and its implications for the ecology of animals. Therefore, we used a C4 to C3 diet shift exper...
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Understanding full annual cycle movements of long-distance migrants is essential for delineating populations, assessing connectivity, evaluating crossover effects between life stages, and informing management strategies for vulnerable or declining species. We used implanted satellite transmitters to track up to 2 years of annual cycle movements of...
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Understanding full annual cycle movements of long-distance migrants is essential for delineating populations, assessing connectivity, evaluating crossover effects between life stages, and informing management strategies for vulnerable or declining species. We used implanted satellite transmitters to track up to 2 years of annual cycle movements of...
Article
Environmental cues, such as photoperiod, regulate the timing of major life-history events like breeding through direct neuroendocrine control. Less known is how supplementary environmental cues (e.g., nest sites, food availability) interact to influence key hormones and behaviors involved in reproduction, specifically in migratory species with gona...
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The turnover rates of tissues and their constituent molecules give us insights into animals' physiological demands and their functional flexibility over time. Thus far, most studies of this kind have focused on protein turnover, and few have considered lipid turnover despite an increasing appreciation of the functional diversity of this class of mo...
Article
Graduate programs in the sciences offer minimal support for writing, yet there is an increasing need for scientists to engage with the public and policymakers. To address this need, we describe an innovative, cross-disciplinary, National Science Foundation-funded training program in rhetoric and writing for STEM graduate students and faculty at the...
Article
Little is known about the habitat use patterns and movement ecology of American common eiders (Somateria mollissima dresseri) despite potential negative impacts on habitat and eider populations from anthropogenic sources (e.g., oil spills, hunting, offshore wind energy facilities). We used satellite telemetry to quantify migratory phenology, home r...
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Habitats around the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) provide critical resources for Nearctic-Neotropical migratory landbirds, the majority of which travel across or around the GOM every spring and fall as they migrate between temperate breeding grounds in North America and tropical wintering grounds in the Caribbean and Central and South America. At the same t...
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Effective marine spatial plans require information on the distribution and abundance of biological resources that are potentially vulnerable to anthropogenic change. In North America, spatially-explicit abundance estimates of marine birds are necessary to assess potential impacts from planned offshore wind energy developments (OWED). Sea ducks are...
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In nature, birds are faced with variable food sources that may differ in composition (protein vs. carbohydrates) and quality (highly digestible material vs. indigestible fiber). Studies in passerine birds and some commercial poultry demonstrate that the gastrointestinal tract can respond to varying diet composition and quality by changing morpholog...
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Increasing the availability of shrubland habitat is a major conservation priority in the Northeastern United States because many wildlife species require this habitat and its extent has been decreasing in recent decades. Conservation agencies often monitor the number of hectares of shrubland habitat created, but rarely monitor the density of the re...
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During migration, birds substantially increase their metabolic rate and burn fats as fuel and yet somehow avoid succumbing to overwhelming oxidative damage. The physiological means by which vertebrates such as migrating birds can counteract an increased production of reactive species (RS) are rather limited: they can upregulate their endogenous ant...
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Trade-offs between locomotory costs and foraging gains are key elements in determining constraints on predator–prey interactions. One intriguing example involves polar bears pursuing snow geese on land. As climate change forces polar bears to spend more time ashore, they may need to expend more energy to obtain land-based food. Given that polar bea...
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Seasonal fluctuations in food availability can affect diets of consumers, which in turn may influence the physiological state of individuals and shape intra- and inter-specific patterns of resource use. High-elevation ecosystems often exhibit a pronounced seasonal "pulse" in productivity, although few studies document how resource use and energetic...
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Physiological challenges during one part of the annual cycle can carry over and affect performance at a subsequent phase, and antioxidants could be one mediator of trade-offs between phases.We performed a controlled experiment with zebra finches to examine how songbirds use nutrition to manage trade-offs in antioxidant allocation between endurance...
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The cryptic behavior of migrating bats leaves us largely uninformed of their seasonal distribution and abundance, important movement corridors, and migration behaviors. However, models of avian migration in relation to meteorological variables may prove useful in describing seasonal patterns of coastal bat activity. We pursued 2 primary objectives...
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The nearshore and offshore waters of southern New England provide some of the most important wintering habitat for sea ducks in North America. Understanding changes in sea duck body composition during winter could provide insights into current habitat quality and potential effects of anthropogenic disturbances on the body condition of sea ducks. We...
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We conducted the first validation of the deuterium dilution method as a nonlethal technique for estimating body composition of a sea duck. We captured male (n = 11) and female (n = 8) American common eiders (Somateria mollissima dresseri) during winters of 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 in southern New England, USA, and compared their directly measured bo...
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All air-breathing organisms must face the challenge of oxidative damage, and understanding how animals cope can lend insight into their ecology. Unlike other vertebrates, birds rely primarily on fats to fuel endurance exercise such as migration, and therefore face a greater potential for damage from the reactive by-products of their own metabolism....
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Nearshore waters provide very important habitat for sea ducks (Tribe Mergini) during migration and winter, but gathering information on sea duck use of shallow nearshore waters is challenging because traditional aerial and boat-based surveys are expensive, are usually conducted infrequently, and are often not feasible near the coast. The objective...