Bird Dispersal of Native and Non-Native Fruiting Plants in a Northwest Indiana Nature Preserve

Faculty Sponsor

Laurie Eberhardt


Arts and Sciences


Biology Department

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-2-2015


Non-native plant species have gained much attention in recent years because they often compete with native plants and overtake landscapes. Birds act as vectors to disperse non-native seeds, which might perpetuate the spreading of non-native plant species. In this study, we tested the dispersal rates of native and non-native fruiting plant species by small perching birds at a nature preserve in Northwest Indiana. To conduct this study, we collected fecal material weekly from fecal traps set in meadow landscapes near forested areas. The material was then analyzed by counting seeds and seed numbers were compared to what was available in the landscape from fruit surveys conducted in mid-October and late November. We collected over 482 fecal samples from 16 traps from early September to mid-December. This fecal material contained 888 seeds and 98% of these seeds were identified to species. Early in the fall season (Oct.), strong preference was shown for native fruiting species compared to what was available for consumption, especially for Parthenocissus quinquifolia. Late in the season (Nov.), a preference was still shown for native fruits, but the preference was not as strong. This research has implications for managing the spread of invasive species.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Chloe Lash is a senior biology and chemistry double major from Plain City, OH. She has plans to attend graduate school to pursue a PhD in ecology, and then she wishes to pursue an academic career that enables her to both teach and conduct research. She is interested in bird behavior, which grew out of an internship at the Smithsonian National Zoo. Additionally, she is interested in invasive species research, which grew out of a NSF REU experience. She loves field work and learning about the complex interactions that animals have with their environments.

Laura Polakowski is a senior biology major and chemistry and psychology minor from Libertyville, IL. She has plans to attend graduate school and pursue a Master's in Physician Assistant Studies. Laura is excited by the research opportunity that this project provided. She is passionate about research and learning new techniques and principles. She knows it allowed her to expand her knowledge in ecology and field studies.

Dr. Laurie Eberhardt is an associate professor of biology at Valparaiso University.

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