Michael Lombardo drew data from decades-long research at a tree swallow study site along the southern part of the Allendale Campus for a recently published paper on the most favorable fledging circumstances for the birds to return to the nesting area.
While Lombardo, professor of biology, has wound down his field work at Grand Valley and teaches a limited number of classes, the long arc of research continues to pay dividends both for science and for the students who worked with Lombardo.
The students, some of whom worked under scholarship grants, developed a base of scientific best practices that has helped launch careers and work toward advanced degrees.
"I would tell them that we're not building a cyclotron, but these are basic skills you have to have. You need to be really consistent and really conscientious about keeping notes and doing all of these things that are required scientifically," Lombardo said. "This is an ideal situation for students to obtain those skills; over the years, at least six students have gone on to get Ph.Ds."
As for the study subjects, Lombardo said tree swallows are an ideal bird to research. He began studying them in 1980 as a graduate student.
"They’re easy to study because they nest in nest boxes, like bluebirds do," Lombardo said. "It makes them easy to attract. They're also very tolerant of people studying them; they're easy to attract, catch and handle."