General Information

Student: Lauren Prince
Office: CoRE 442
School: Howard University
E-mail: laurenp@reu.dimacs.rutgers.edu lauren.m.prince@hotmail.com
Project: Analyzing the Concerns Affecting Conspecific Attraction of Territorial Bird Populations Using Population Projection Matrix Models

Project Description

I will be working with my mentor to analyze the concerns of "artificial" conspecific attraction. According to Ward and Schlossberg, conspecific attraction is the "tendency for individuals of species to settle near one another". When this definition is applied to "artificial" conspecific attraction, ecologists can attract a species population through a mating cue. In the case of territorial birds, song playback is used. Although using conspecific attraction as a way to conserve a bird population can be beneficial, there are also some concerns that need consideration. During the duration of the next weeks, we will be using population projection matrix models to test these concerns in order to determine the best conditions for the use of "artificial" conspecific attraction.

Weekly Log

Week 1:
I worked with my mentor, Robbie, to understand the background of my project. In order to really understand, I had to expose myself to new terms and ideas in ecology, specifically those related to bird populations. I also worked on the first presentation, which can be found below.
Week 2:
I meet with my mentor and began understanding the code for the projection matrices. I do not have any previous experience with Matlab coding; however, through trial and error, I was able to set up the code. The text Quantitative Conservation Biology: Theory and Practice of Population Viability Analysis by Morris & Folk was and continues to be a great help and tutorial. I was able to project a population through ten years. For now arbitrary numbers are being used, but in the next few weeks, after I become more comfortable with the codes and concepts, vital rates and average population sizes of a territorial bird species will be used.
I also attended a seminar by Dr. Jaroslav Nešetřil from the Department of Applied Mathematics of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic titled What Makes a Math Problem Beautiful? He was quite a character and very interesting. With different examples, he claimed that a beautiful math problem is easy to state, difficult, recognized, elegant and relevant. In addition, he shared a short clip of video he scripted honoring fellow colleague Endre Szemerédi.
I ended the week with a group meeting of graduated mentors and undergraduate students working in the Fefferman Lab. Overall, I had an eventful, productive week. I am enjoying my project and learning a great deal about the application of mathematical modeling to conservation biology.
Week 3:
The week started with a trip to IBM in New York in which I had the opportunity to hear from five researchers in the company's mathematical sciences department. Some of the topics included the application of linear algebra to higher processing, cryptanalysis, and IBM's DeepQA project: Watson. I also had the chance to see the Blue Gene family of computers, which are essentially high operating supercomputers. The trip was very informative and broadened my view on career aspects for this field.
As far as my project, everything is going well. I am still getting this gist of matlab; however, it seems that the more practice I have, the more manageable it becomes. I completed the first model, which now has projections for up to 15 years with a percentage of juveniles taken out each consecutive year. As noted in the description of the project, the juvenile population is affected most by conspecific attraction. This is due to the fact that they are usually first-time breeders and have no previous success at a site, unlike adults. I was also able to identify the growth rates for a normal population in which the juvenile population is not removed, and the growth rates of the same population but with the juveniles removed. I can use this to see the least number of juveniles needed to maintain a viable population; in other words, the largest percent that can be removed.
In the upcoming week, I plan on adding a second population into the model. The juveniles removed from the first population will be placed into the second population. In addition, I plan to begin writing at least the introduction for the final report due at the end of the summer.
Week 4:
This week was quite productive. The model that includes both a source population and a receiving population is relatively complete. During the next week, hopefully I can research real values for survival and fecundity for different age classes. Then, I can analyze these results to see if any of the earlier conjectures can be supported with real data. In addition, I am hoping to use the model to come to some conclusions about quasi extinction: when it may occur and how to prevent it.
I also attended a seminar given by Swastik Kopparty about random walks. He used linear algebra to explain some applications of random walks. The mathematics behind random walks play an important role in real-life situations, such as stock investments and biological systems.
Week 5:
This week was pretty eventful. As far as seminars, we took a trip to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Topics included radiation oncology, the use of zebra fish to monitor the genes associated with specific cancers, genetics and protein p53, and the use of biomarkers to access the risk of lung cancer. In general, the theme of the day was bioinformatics. As far as my project, I spent time trying to find vital rates of species to put into the model. By doing this, I can see the effectiveness of the model and when conspecific attraction would be beneficial to a population.
Since the final presentations will be in two weeks, the upcoming week will be busy. I have to add density dependence into the model, which should not be too complicated. I also have to continue working on the final written report, specifically methods and results, as well as complete a draft of my final presentation by Friday.
Week 6:
This week I spent time reviewing the code and gathering the results. I had to alter a few parts of the code to better accommodate the results. I also began preparing for the final presentation.
The week was also filled with two activities. The first one was a cultural day presentation with various presenters from the REU. It was interesting to see the diversity of the group of people involved in the program. Later in the week, we had a graduate school panel. It was very informative and answered some of the questions I previously had.
Week 7:
I spent most if not all of this week working on and editing the details of my final presentation. I think the hardest part for me is connecting the work I have been doing for the past several weeks to the initial question. I have been working to draw a conclusion from the results. In general, I am excited to present the results to the other participants as well as hear about their projects.
Week 8:
The final week of the REU was spent working on my final report. This included the last meetings with my mentor and the lab group. I have truly enjoyed this experienced. Although the 8 weeks seemed to go by quickly, I have learned quite a bit. I plan to stay in contact with my mentor and continue work during the semester if possible.


Additional Information