Cooperative Research Units
Education, Research And Technical Assistance For Managing Our Natural Resources
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Regionwide songbird response to Marcellus gas well and infrastructure development


July 2013 - August 2018


Extraction of natural gas from Marcellus shale has increased exponentially in the central Appalachians. We will quantify how the size, shape, age and placement of gas well pads and pipelines in the landscape impact abundance and diversity of forest songbirds across the Marcellus shale region. Our analyses will potentially identify thresholds of habitat and landscape metrics beyond which birds are negatively impacted and quantify how far edge effects from well pads extend into the surrounding forest. We will randomly select a sample of well sites from landscapes with high and low density gas well development and also will sample mature forest reference areas not impacted by Marcellus development. We will use standard protocols to quantify avian, vegetation, and landscape metrics and will develop statistical models to relate bird densities and abundance to the habitat and landscape metrics. These results can inform conservation professionals as well as industry regarding effects of Marcellus development on forest birds and will provide baseline data that can be used to monitor bird populations and assess effects over a longer period of time. The results will also inform management recommendations regarding pad shape, size, and placement that minimize impacts to forest interior birds and will inform restoration of pipelines to maximize habitat improvement for the early successional suite of species.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Farwell, L.S., P.B. Wood, R. Dettmers, and M. Brittingham. Threshold responses of songbirds in forested landscapes altered by unconventional shale gas development. Landscape Ecology
  • Farwell, L.S., P.B. Wood, J. Sheehan, and G.A. George. 2016. Shale gas development effects on the songbird community in a central Appalachian forest. Biological Conservation 201:78-91.
  • Farwell, L.S., P.B. Wood, D.J. Brown, and J. Sheehan. Proximity to unconventional shale gas infrastructure alters breeding songbird abundance and distribution. Condor Volume XX, 2019, pp. 1–20. DOI: 10.1093/condor/duz020


  • Farwell, L.S. August 2018. Songbird response to forest disturbance due to unconventional shale gas development in the Marcellus-Utica region: a multi-scale analysis. PhD Dissertation, West Virginia University, Morgantown.


  • Farwell, L.S. and P.B. Wood. Breeding songbird response to forest fragmentation due to Marcellus-Utica shale gas development. Annual Conference of the American Ornithological Society, Lansing MI, 31 Jul - 5 Aug 2017
  • Farwell, L.S., P.B. Wood, R. Dettmers, M. Brittingham. Region-wide Assessment of Marcellus-Utica Shale Gas Development Effects on Birds. Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society, Cleveland, OH, 10 Oct 2018

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 240

Phd Students: 143

Post Docs: 52

University Staff: 245

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 702

Scientific Publications: 1948

Presentations: 4253



Funding Agencies

  • Southern Regional Education Board


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey