Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Reader 1

Diane Thomson

Reader 2

Donald McFarlane

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2016 Jaclyn Grace Stewart


Shorebirds are increasingly threatened by introduced predators, invasive grasses, and human disturbance. Matrix models can be used to predict population growth and assess management options. The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover, Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus, is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, largely due to high rates of nest predation. A matrix model for the entire Pacific coast metapopulation of western snowy plovers was published in 1999 by Nur et al., but population growth has not been comprehensively reassessed since, even after development of a recovery plan (USFWS 2007) and extensive management intervention. I built and analyzed a matrix model for one subpopulation of western snowy plovers previously considered a sink habitat—Recovery Unit 2 in northern California, comprising Humboldt, Mendocino, and Del Norte counties. Based on my model, growth rate (lambda) is 1.05—countering a previous finding that Recovery Unit 2 is a sink—compared to 1.036 for the Nur et al. (1999) metapopulation model. I found that sensitivities and elasticities for each vital rate were similar between the two models; adult survival had the greatest effect on lambda, followed by juvenile survival, and fecundity had the least effect. Even though fecundity was lower for my model than Nur et al.’s (1999), adult survival was higher, which had a larger impact on population growth. In terms of management strategies, predator control, habitat restoration, and restriction of human activity should continue as outlined in the recovery plan, so as to continue the trend of positive growth for the coastal breeding population. Future directions involve performing population viability analyses for other recovery units to reassess the state of western snowy plovers compared to 1999.