The Greenberg Innovation Sessions

September 23rd, 2013
Washington College
Chestertown, Maryland

Russ Greenberg was a prolific and influential scientist who devoted his career to understanding the ecology, evolution, and conservation of birds. Russ was an innovator and many of his greatest contributions to science were revolutionary hypotheses that were rooted in a deep knowledge of natural history. To honor Russ's inventive spirit on his 60th birthday, we held a one-day gathering entitled the Greenberg Innovation Sessions. The symposium was preceded by a social birding trip and followed by a celebratory dinner.

Contributions to the sessions proposed novel hypotheses in avian behavioral ecology, evolutionary ecology, or conservation and provided tests of these hypotheses or methods for future tests. The goal of the sessions was not to answer the hypotheses per se, but rather to generate new concepts from many perspectives and stimulate new research. Contributors included individuals and collaborative teams.

Symposium Hashtag: #RGIS13

Birding trip

Before the symposium, attendees searched for fall migrants among the restored grasslands and forest edges of Chino Farms. Several interesting species turned up during a visit to Foreman's Branch Bird Observatory (FBBO).

small yellow bird with gray back and necklace
yellow bird with black wings
tiny green bird held in hand
unidentified brown sparrow
brown bird with large beak
From left to right: Canada warbler, scarlet tanager, ruby-throated hummingbird, sparrow, and blue grosbeak. Photos by Jordan Rutter.


Master of Ceremonies: Walt Koenig


  1. Evolutionary succession—Brian Olsen
  2. A Greenberg Effect on Lack's Law?—Steve Beissinger
  3. Heat loss strategies in different species of Darwin's finches—Russ Greenberg, Ray Danner, Glenn Tattersall, and Cadena
  4. Seasonal refashioning of the bill: A temperate phenomenon?—Ray Danner and Russ Greenberg
  5. Variation in evolutionary trajectories of urban and rural populations—David Luther
  6. Red leaves as cues to attract insect-seeking birds in tropical forest understories—Sunshine Van Bael
  7. Are changes in bird song and climate related?—John Rappole
  8. Global patterns in aerial insectivore communities—David Winkler


  1. Molecular consequences of sperm competition in birds—Irene Liu
  2. "Stable unpredictability" and the evolution of cooperation—John Fitzpatrick
  3. Inverse Lake Wobegon in the Emberizidae: Most male sparrows are not good-looking and are below average—Doug Gill


  1. Differences between sexes of a migratory bird in dispersal and spatial distribution at multiple scales—Paul B. Hamel, Gabriel J. Colorado, Christopher M. Rogers, Jennifer Baldy
  2. Late breeding season habitat shifts: A southern phenomenon?—John Faaborg
  3. Everything we believe about dispersal of resident forest birds is wrong—Jeff Walters
  4. Matching what birds do with how they perceive the world: More useful predictions of species behavior and use of habitat—Todd Keeler-Wolf


  1. Do environmental cues trigger mirror-image misorientation in young Blackpoll Warblers and cause it to persist in the population even though mirror-image vagrant individuals presumably die in the Pacific Ocean?—David DeSante and Sam Droege
  2. Warblers are from Mars, Euphonias are from Venus (Migration in different worlds)—Doug Levey and Alex Jahn
  3. Does endocrine disruption contribute to migration orientation errors and thus population decline?—Pete Myers

Foraging ecology

  1. Comparative research on bacterial based cerophagy in birds—Rob Fleischer, Rebecca Dikow, Kurata, Lock, and Claire Spottiswoode
  2. Behavioral ecology of species interactions: The seed dispersal insurance hypothesis of masting in oaks—Mario Pesendorfer
  3. Birds and periodical cicadas: Addressing a 350-year-old mystery—Walt Koenig

Conservation, agroecosystems, and community interactions

  1. Understanding global declines of Rusty Blackbirds—Steven Matsuoka
  2. Using birds as a conservation approach for wild bees in the Corn Belt—Valerie Peters and Bob Cooper
  3. Community disassembly drives loss of ecosystem services in simplified agroecosystems—Stacy Philpott and Peter Bichier
  4. The role of insectivorous birds in forest ecosystems has not been adequately assessed because of poor design of exclosure experiments—Bob Cooper and Valerie Peters
  5. Could nitrogen deposition mediate ecological traps?—Colin Studds

Evening banquet

A celebratory banquet was held in a pavilion appropriately nestled in a marsh along the Chester River.

Organizing committee


Expanded Abstracts