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Research Area 1: The Effects of Urbanization and Land Use Practices on Avian Community in Nanjing, China. 

As the human population continues to grow, urbanization and anthropogenic land use are affecting more species living in their historical ranges by changing the habitat and environment conditions. Urbanization is quickly becoming a global issue, as the human population increases and more and more people move into urban environments.  The Population Division of the United Nations estimated that close to 50% of the world’s population lives in an urban environment, with the most rapid development happening in less developed regions. China is the world’s most populous country with over 1.3 billion people, and rapid urbanization has been a notable feature of the past two decades in China. Nearly half of China's population now live in urban areas, rising from 26% in 1990 and up 13 percentage points from 2000.  China’s land cover has also changed quickly. For example, between 2000 and 2005, China’s cultivated land decreased by 6.9×105 hm2, while the built-up land increased 1.7×106 hm2, of which 75% were converted from cultivated land, and the expansion of built-up land concentrated in eastern China.

Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu Province of China and is a fast growing city both economically and in urbanization.  China also has rich bird diversity, but many bird species are likely declining because of land use change due to urbanization.  The objectives of the project are to study how the avian community in Nanjing is affected by the ongoing urbanization process and different land use practices.  This study will provide insight into the landscape factors that contribute to the bird community change for a poorly studied area in China. 

The REU student chosen for this project will be trained to conduct field techniques, develop a hypothesis, and carry out the project. The student will work with a mentor to conduct bird surveys in Nanjing and surrounding areas.  The student will learn to identify birds, record bird behavior, enter data into computer database, and perform data analysis.  With the help of faculty and graduate student mentors, the REU student will perform statistical analyses to estimate relative abundance, diversity, richness and compare the variations among different land use types. The REU student will develop a report and a presentation based on the field data.  The student will also have the opportunity to apply for a travel grant to present his/her results at a professional meeting to build career relationships with professionals in the field.  The selected student will have a strong interest in field studies, preferably in ornithology, ecology, or a related field, and should be physically capable of hiking under high heat and humid conditions, and spending long days in the field, often seven days a week (weather permitting).