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How do you define a species? Seaside Sparrow population genetics told through photography
By Eric Fortman
It’s summer time and that means it’s nesting season for all kinds of creatures. For the past two summers I’ve had the pleasure of working on a seaside sparrow genetics project with Carolyn Enloe, a University of Florida graduate student.
Seaside sparrows inhabit salt marshes along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, humans like to inhabit coastal marshes as well. So habitat destruction from development, has impacted many populations. Unlike their northern relatives, Florida’s resident seaside sparrows typically don’t travel more than a 10km radius from the nest where they were born. Because of this high site fidelity and their specific habitat requirements, the species has suffered from habitat fragmentation. Currently the species exist in several disjunct populations spread around the state. There are four currently recognized extant subspecies of seaside sparrow in Florida: MacGillivray’s (Ammodramus maritimus macgillivraii), Scott’s (A. maritimus peninsulae), Louisiana (A. maritimus fisheri), Wakulla (A. maritimus juncicola), and Cape Sable (A. maritimus mirabilis). The goal of the project is to better understand how these subspecies and subpopulations are related to each other. The three aspects used in the study are: genetics, plumage coloration, and song.
Eric Fortman is a hobo biologist and photographer, presently living in South Florida. He is currently pursuing an M.S. in Biology, studying the microbiome of Biscayne Bay. To see more of his work visit EricFortman.com or Instagram: @EricFortman.