In 2013, I set up a great-tailed grackle field site in Santa Barbara, California as part of my SAGE Junior Research Fellowship at the University of California Santa Barbara. Grackles began colonizing the Santa Barbara area in the 1990s, so it is a relatively recent population. This species is sexually dimorphic in plumage and behavior, and their mating system is polygamous: one to a few males defend a territory, and females build nests on these territories and raise the young. Grackles are generalist foragers and highly associated with human populations: they eat our garbage, crops, and at our outdoor cafes.
With support from the Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture at MPI EVA, I established a second field site in 2017 in Tempe, Arizona to begin population comparisons. Grackles have been in the Tempe area since the 1980s, so this is a slightly older population than the one in Santa Barbara. Starting in 2019, more sites will be established that span their geographic range: one site will be in the middle of their original range and will be a much older population, while the other will be on the northern edge of their range and very young. This will allow me to investigate what differences are associated with edge populations that might give them an advantage to populate new environments.