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Mercedes S. Foster

Biological Survey Project
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
National Museum of Natural History
10th and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20560-0111

Photo of Mercedes S. Foster

Telephone: 202-633-0788

Fax: 202-357-1932


Research Zoologist and Curator of Birds

Primary Responsibilities: 
The primary responsibility of the incumbent is (1) To initiate, design, conduct, and report research on the ecology, behavior, population status, distribution, and systematics of birds relevant to the mission of the USGS.  Studies involve primarily nongame and foreign species and their habitats.  Other responsibilities include: (2) Serving as the team leader of the Standard Methods for Measuring Biodiversity Project, to develop and publish handbooks;  (3) Serving as a Curator of the Service's resources in the National Collection of Birds housed at the National Museum of Natural History, and working cooperatively with Smithsonian counterparts; (4) Serving as an information resource for the USGS on issues relating to biodiversity and birds of  the Western Hemisphere. (5) Taking an active role in the professional scientific community; and (6) supervising employee(s), research assistants, and students conducting research. 

B.A.,  University of California, Berkeley, 1963; major Zoology
M.A,  University of California, Berkeley, 1965; major Zoology, minor Botany
Duke University Marine Laboratory, Durham, 1965; Invertebrate Biology
Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica, 1966; Tropical Ecology
University of Chicago, 1968-1969 Evolutionary Biology
Ph.D., University of South Florida, Tampa, 1974; Biology

Areas of Expertise/Interest: :  Major themes include (1) the ecology and behavior of North American nearctic migrant birds during migration and in winter; (2) the ecology and behavior of selected species of tropical birds and other organisms that interact with nearctic migrants; (3) social behavior and ecology of neotropical birds, with emphasis on lek behavior, frugivory, and seed dispersal; (4) the relationships between birds and the plants whose seeds they disperse, and application of these findings to the enhancement of degraded and converted habitats; (5) development of techniques, methodologies, and standards for measuring the biodiversity of different groups of organisms;  (6) use of the bird collections in the National Museum of Natural History to address specific questions about molt, distribution, and other facets of the biology of birds; (7) conservation in Latin America; (8) training of  students in research, conservation, resource management, and museum practices.

Alexander Skutch Medal for Excellence in Tropical Ornithology, Association of Field Ornithologists (2006)
Cocha Cashu Biological Station, Outstanding Service Award (1997)
USGS Biological Resources Division - Scientific Achievement Award, 1996
26th Paul L. Errington Memorial Lecturer, Iowa State University, 1990
Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología, Colombia - Honorary Member, 1989
American Association Advancement of Science – Fellow, 1988

Active Projects: 

Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity: Standard Methods for Reptiles

The Ecology of Fruit Use by Birds

The Birds of El Tirol, and Inland Patch of Atlantic Coastal Forest

Breeding Biology of the frogs of El Tirol

Nearctic Migrant Birds on the Wintering Grounds and during Migration

Behavior and ecology of birds with emphasis on tropical areas

Selected Publications/Products: 

Foster, M. S.  2007.  Winter behavior and ecology of the Alder Flycatcher (Empidonax alnorum) in Peru. Neotropical Ornithology 18:171-186.

Foster, M. S. 2007.  The potential of fruiting trees to enhance converted habitats for migrating birds in southern Mexico.  Bird Conservation International 17:45-61.

Doucet, S. M., D. B. McDonald , Mercedes S. Foster, and Rob P. Clay.  2007. Plumage development and molt in Long-Tailed Manakins (Chiroxiphia linearis): Variation according to sex and age.  Auk 124: 29-43

Mueller, G. M., G. F. Bills, and M. S. Foster (eds.).  2004.  Biodiversity of Fungi, Inventory and Monitoring Methods.   Elsevier Academic Press, New York.  xiii + 777 pp.

Dobson, A., K. Ralls, M. S. Foster, M. E. Soulé, D. Simberloff, D. Doak, J. Estes, L. S. Mills, D. Mattson, R. Dirzo, H. Arita, S. Ryan, E. A. Norse, R. F. Noss, and D. Johns.  1999.  Corridors: Reconnecting fragmented landscapes.  Pp. 129-170.   In M. Soulé and J. Terborgh (eds.),  Continental Conservation: Scientific Foundations of Regional Reserve Networks.  Island Press.  Washington, D.C.

Foster, M. S., and J. Terborgh. 1998.  Impact of a rare storm event on an Amazonian forest.  Biotropica 30:470-474.

Foster, M. S., and Linda S. DeLay. 1998. Dispersal of Mimetic Seeds of Three Species of Ormosia (Leguminosae). Journal of Tropical Ecology 14:389-411.

Wilson, D. E.,  F. R. Cole, J. D. Nichols, R. Rudran, and M. S. Foster (eds.).  1996.  Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity, Standard Methods for Mammals.  Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Greenberg, R., M. S. Foster, and L. Marquez-Valdelamar. 1995. The role of the White-eyed Vireo in the dispersal of Bursera fruit in the Yucatan Peninsula. Journal of Tropical Ecology 11:619-639.

Heyer, W. R., M. A. Donnelly, R. W. McDiarmid, L. C. Hayek, and M. S. Foster (eds.). 1994. Measuring and Monitoring Biological Diversity, Standard Methods for Amphibians. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 364 pp.

Beehler, B. M., and M. S. Foster. 1988. Hotshots, hotspots, and female preference in the organization of lek mating systems. American Naturalist 131: 203-219.

Foster, M. S. 1983. Disruption, dispersion, and dominance in lek-breeding birds. American Naturalist 122: 53-72.

Foster, M. S. 1974. A model to explain molt-breeding overlap and clutch size in some tropical birds. Evolution 28: 82-190.

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