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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI natural resources professor awarded $360,000 grant

Prestigious 'early career' grant funds bird
research and teaching

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 25, 2000 -- University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor Scott McWilliams' research and teaching on the physiology of migratory songbirds just received a significant boost. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded him a five-year $360,000 Early Career Development grant to fund his research and his efforts to develop innovative teaching methods.

"The NSF Early Career Development Program is a highly prestigious grant for young faculty members, and the University is proud that Scott has been awarded it," said William Wright, dean of URI's College of the Environment and Life Sciences. "His selection acknowledges that he is both an exceptional researcher and teacher."

NSF created the Early Career program to foster the early development of academic careers by linking the excitement of research with inspired teaching. The grant is limited to faculty in their first five years of a tenure-track academic position.

A Kingston resident, McWilliams joined the URI faculty in 1998 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin. His research focuses primarily on the physiology and ecology of migratory birds, especially geese, grouse, and songbirds. The grant will fund his studies of how birds rapidly adapt to changes in their environment by adjusting their digestive systems and body composition.

"I want to know how, for instance, the quantity and quality of food affects a bird's ability to store fat and protein during migration," said McWilliams. "How does the digestive system of a bird change during migration, and how do those changes influence the tempo of migration as birds travel through southern New England?"

URI students will help McWilliams find the answers to these questions and get valuable research experience in the process.

"The teaching component of the grant will allow me to develop portions of my research to include undergraduates and to add experiential methods to my

existing classes," he said. Other strategies he'll use to involve undergraduate students in research include interdisciplinary creative projects, a freshman field course, and mentored internships with business, industry and non-profit organizations.

Field research will begin this summer at bird banding stations in Kingston and Block Island.

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For Information: Scott McWilliams 874-7531, Todd McLeish 874-7892


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