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Pete Marra

Center Head
B.S., Southern Connecticut State University; M.S., Louisiana State University; Ph.D., Dartmouth College

Pete Marra is the director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. His research in avian conservation science has three broad themes, including the ecology of migratory birds, urban ecosystem ecology and disease ecology.

Marra's primary interests lie in understanding the factors that control population persistence and dynamics, so his research examines the roles of climate, habitat, food and pathogens, as well as other anthropogenic sources of mortality on the individual condition of both migratory and resident birds.

Marra's projects include:

  • Full annual cycle biology of migratory birds, including work on multiple species (e.g., American redstarts, kirtland’s warblers)
  • The Migratory Connectivity Project
  • The ecology and evolution of wildlife in urban environments (Neighborhood Nestwatch)
  • Coffee agroforestry: expanding the reach of the bird-friendly bean

Marra's research emphasizes incorporating events throughout the annual cycle to understand how more complex interactions across seasons drive the ecology and evolution of species, and he uses this information to find conservation solutions. To do this, he has developed and incorporated multiple novel and emerging tracking techniques into his research.

Marra has founded several large research and communication initiatives, including Neighborhood Nestwatch, The Migratory Connectivity Project and the Animal Mortality and Monitoring Program. Communicating his science and his excitement for the conservation of wildlife to as wide an audience as possible, including the general public, is a high priority of his overall program.

Marra and his students, post docs and colleagues have published more than 170 papers in journals such as Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the Royal Society and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Marra’s recent book is entitled "Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer."
Marra earned a B.S. from Southern Connecticut State University, a master's from Louisiana State University and a Ph.D from Dartmouth College.
He is co-founder of Tree House Concerts, an avid fly fisherman, passionate cook and father of two.
Recent Papers: 
Cohen, Emily B., Barrow, Wylie C., Buler, Jeffrey J., Deppe, Jill L., Farnsworth, Andrew, Marra, Peter P., McWilliams, Scott R., Mehlman, David W., Wilson, R. R., Woodrey, Mark S. and Moore, Frank R. 2017. How do en route events around the Gulf of Mexico influence migratory landbird populations?. The Condor, 327-343. http://dx.doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-17-20.1
Cooper, Nathan W., Hallworth, Michael T. and Marra, Peter P. 2017. Light-level geolocation reveals wintering distribution, migration routes, and primary stopover locations of an endangered long-distance migratory songbird. Journal of Avian Biology, 209-219. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jav.01096
Davis, Herlitz, Rice, Robert, Rockwood, Larry, Wood, Thomas and Marra, Peter. 2017. The economic potential of fruit trees as shade in blue mountain coffee agroecosystems of the Yallahs River watershed, Jamaica W.I. Agroforestry Systems, 1-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10457-017-0152-z

Projects