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Photo: Bryan Stokes

SSRI Project Alumni

The Saltmarsh Sparrow Research Initiative has had the extreme good fortune to attract extraordinarily talented volunteers and collaborators over our five years. Here are some of the key people who have played important roles in the success of our research!

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Evan Lipton

Sparked by backyard birds and photography in 2011, Evan has been birding nonstop ever since. He was first introduced to bird banding at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge; and was extremely lucky, after a move to Rhode Island, to team up with Deirdre and Steve for Rhode Island Audubon banding demonstrations and the SALSri project. 


Graphic and web design are among his passions in addition to bird illustration and photography. He held a banding internship at Manomet Bird Observatory during spring and fall 2019. He did field work in 2020 at the Farallon Islands NWR in CA.


Find him on his website:

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Katie Christ

Katie Christ’s interest in birds began at a young age, as her parents are avid birders and gardeners. Growing up sailing and fishing on Narragansett Bay instilled a particular love for this area with all its unique flora and fauna. Katie graduated from University of Rhode Island with a degree in Wildlife Conservation Biology. She volunteered with the SALS project for several years and is excited to see how it continues to grow.


Aidan Furze

Aidan is a 20-year-old Biology graduate of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Aidan's thesis project assessed the potential use of Magnetoreception in the foraging patterns of woodpeckers and other wild birds through feeder experiments. Originally interested in Neuroscience, Aidan's ambitions changed in the spring of 2018 when they developed a love for birds and field ecology. As a native of Rhode Island, Aidan was pleased to have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the salt marsh ecosystem and its critical importance to the Saltmarsh Sparrows. Aidan hopes to continue to take part in bird monitoring projects with shorebirds and raptors. Aidan is currently a Research Assistant at Brown University.


Miranda Zammarelli

Miranda Zammarelli joined the SSRI Team for the 2020 breeding season shortly after graduating from the University of Rochester (class of ’20) where she earned degrees in Anthropology and Brain and Cognitive Science, and where she worked as a Writing Fellow for the University’s Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program. As a 2020 intern with SSRI, Miranda’s focused on quantifying the habitat characteristics of Saltmarsh Sparrow nest-sites—and at randomly located sites on the Jacob’s Point marsh. She subsequently performed analyses comparing the vegetative makeup of the nest-sites to the randomly selected sites. Miranda lives in Scituate, RI. See her published article on the design of Writing Centers. Miranda is now pursuing a doctorate in evolutionary biology with a focus on birds at Dartmouth College. View her presentation on her research at Jacob's Point.


Olivia McCarthy

Olivia McCarthy joined the SSRI team towards the end of the 2020 field season and work with us during all of 2021. She has always had a passion for the natural world, but her interest in wildlife and the sciences jump-started when she spent a summer in high school as an intern at Rhode Island College. There she worked in the campus apiary as an assistant to James Murphy, the RIC Sustainability Coordinator. From that point on, she has been developing her skills and knowledge through volunteer work and coursework to pursue a career in environmental and biological sciences. Her main interests are in coastal ecosystem management and restoration. Olivia graduated in the fall of 2021 from the Environmental Studies program at Rhode Island College, and aims to attend graduate school.


Jessica A. Szpila

Jessica has always had an affinity for birds. She recalls a time when she would lay in her backyard, imagine she was aloft with them, and count as many species as she could observe. Still an avid birder, she now keeps a nature journal and illustrates or photographs the birds she sees. She was also fortunate to spend many days of her youth exploring the salt marshes of her hometown, Tiverton. Jessica could never ignore the lure of the coast, and found herself first working for Mass Audubon's Coastal Waterbird Program, researching Piping Plovers. A student in the Wildlife & Conservation Biology program at URI, she found her way to SSRI after sitting for a guest webinar on Saltmarsh Sparrows during her field ornithology course. Attending this meeting sparked a magnetic interest in the species, and she knew she must find a way to work with them. In 2021 she was accepted to URI's Coastal and Environmental Fellowship Program, and decided to pursue an independent fellowship project on SALS under the supervision of Steven Reinert. She has since fallen in love with SSRI, and decided to pursue her senior thesis research on Saltmarsh Sparrow nesting ecology. Jessica is pursuing a PhD in the field of avian ecology after graduating from URI, and hopes to continue working with this species.


Kylie Rezendes

Kylie joined the SALSRI team in the summer of 2021 where she learned hands-on techniques in mist netting, bird banding, and vegetation surveys. She is studying towards a BS in Conservation and Wildlife Biology at the University of Rhode Island. At URI, she participates in Dr. Brian Gerber's Applied Quantitative Ecology Lab . In the lab, Kylie organizes and deploys remote camera traps for Snapshot USA, a nationwide effort to sample mammal populations. Kylie is also a field technician on the first-ever, research-based fisher (Pekania pennanti) trapping team, the Rhode Island Fisher Study. The team collects information on the fine scale movements of the RI population of fisher by collaring and tracking individuals. Throughout the summer and winter Kylie kayaks or walks the state's waterways in RI conducting semi-aquatic mammal occupancy surveys. This study aims to better understand where species like muskrat, otters, and beaver are living throughout the three main watersheds: the Blackstone, the Pawtuxet, and the Pawcatuck. In the past, Kylie worked as a field technician on a bobcat population study utilizing remote camera trapping and non-invasive fur sampling techniques. Kylie enjoys science and conservation across all species and has volunteered checking eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) nests for the Audubon Society of RI, surveying for box turtles, and collecting amphibian samples along transects to study the impacts of roads on amphibian crossing.

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