Richard Rowe, Ph.D.

Colonel Richard RoweWelcome to Colonel Rowe's Website



Professor of Biology, Director of Research VMI Research Labs
203-A Science Hall |  Ph: 540-464-7434  | 


Ph.D. - Michigan State University

M.S. - Bowling Green State University

B.A. - Ripon College


My general area of specialization is vertebrate biology.  Specifically, I teach courses in anatomy (Comparative Vertebrate Morphology, Developmental Biology, and Histology) and vertebrate biology (Animal Behavior and Ornithology).


My research program is focused on avian biology.  Since the mid-1990s, I have been working to document the different species of birds found in Rockbridge County, VA.  In 1957, JJ Murray, one of the founders of the Virginia Society of Ornitholoy and pastor of the Lexington Presbyterian Church, published the Birds of Rockbirdge County, Virginia as the first publication of Virginia Avifauna of the VSO.  My work is providing an up-date to Murray's book.  Rockbridge County has a rich history of birding activity including a Christmas Bird Count that began in 1922 and has run continuously since 1936.  As would be expected with any area, there have been a number of changes to the environment of the county (the Interstate system was created, several lakes and ponds were created, a few ponds drained, and farm land has been converted to residental land).  These changes have had some impact on the bird species present, but in general, the county continues to see a large number of species living in or passing through the area each year.  My Birds of Rockbridge County webpage can be accessed through the following link.  The photographs associated with the chapters of the book were, except for a few exceptions, all taken in  Rockbridge County.

Birds of Rockbridge County 

In addition to the Birds of Rockbridge County webpage, I maintain a photogallery on Flickr.  The photogallery is divided into photographs of birds seen in Rockbridge County and photographs of birds seen in Virginia.


A second focus of my research laboratory is investigating alarm calls in Tree Swallows.  During the past year, my research student and I have recorded vocalizations of Tree Swallows associated with normal daily activities (feeding, territorial calls, nestling calls) as well as responses to threats.  Our initial work has been to catalogue the different vocalizations of the Tree Swallows and document the behavioral context for the different calls.  The different calls have been analyzed using Raven Software developed by the Laboratory for Bioacoustics at Cornell University.  The use of Raven allows us to quantify the calls to determine note and phrase duration, sequencing of notes, frequency characteristics of notes, and temporal patterning of vocalizations.  In addition, we created playback tapes of  alarm calls to verify that these calls were, indeed, alarm calls.  The playback experiments demonstrated that we had identified an alarm call and that the birds responded appropriately to the playback calls. 

During the summer of 2013, my research student and I are examining nest defense behavior in Tree Swallows.  We are using alarm calls recorded during the summer of 2012 to investigate defense behavior and whether this behavior changes as the nesting phase progresses from nest building through egg laying and incubation to feeding nestlings and finally fledgelings that are mobile. 


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