Do Backyard Bird Habitats Work?

Meet biology major Ananke Garani Krishnan.

September 22, 2022

Hometown: San Jose, California

Thesis advisers: Profs. Anna Ritz [biology] and Julia Michaels [biology]

Thesis: “Impacts of Backyard Habitat Creation for Birds at Single Yard and City-Wide Scales”

What it’s about: How do small-scale urban restoration projects—in this case the implementation of “backyard habitats” via the Backyard Habitat Certification Program—function to support birds? I’m interested in how this established network of backyards can serve as a system of habitat corridors to increase overall habitat connectivity and accessibility for birds across Portland!

What it’s really about: How can we support birds in urban ecosystems?

In high school: I was quiet, shy, and just as much of a bird nerd.

Influential class: Wildlife in America made me reassess the idea of conservation as a social issue just as much as an environmental one. I came to understand that the health of societies and the environment are inextricably linked, that actions taken for wildlife inevitably affect people, and that conservation issues must be approached in a socially just way.

Influential book: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy shows how universals such as grief, loss, and love become much more complicated in the context of boundaries set by larger society.

Concept that blew my mind: Biological cascade reactions—how a single signaling pathway can be responsible for several different responses!

Cool stuff: I presented a poster at a scientific conference in Austin, volunteered at the Reed Community Pantry, tutored for intro bio, learned to pour latte art as a volunteer barista, and rehabilitated injured wild birds at the Audubon Society. 

Help along the way: I received generous grants from the biology department and the Center for Life Beyond Reed to conduct summer research and present at conferences.

Challenges faced: Conducting over 100 early-morning bird surveys for my thesis in the span of a semester—such are the demands of field research!

What’s next: Working as a grassland bird intern at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute over the summer, then starting a research assistant position at the University of Maryland on modeling animal movement.