Studying the Dietary Habits of the Endangered Red Knot

This summer I will be working on a project concerning the decline in populations of the red knot, a shorebird, along the US East Coast.  The overarching goal of the project is to create better conservation initiatives to save the birds, which are on the list of threatened and endangered wildlife.  I will be doing research in to the feeding patterns of the red knots, during their “refueling” stop along the Georgian Coast before they continue their journey north to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.  I will be extracting DNA from samples of red knot feces that will be collected this spring, and I will perform digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to discover what the red knots eat, particularly whether or not they are eating horseshoe crab eggs.  The results of my work will help determine whether there are key foraging areas that overlap with recreational areas that will require ongoing closure enforcement in the spring.  I am excited to start working full-time on this project during the summer.  I find the interdisciplinary approach combining molecular tools with conservation biology very interesting, and I am glad to be part of a team that is working to save these birds.