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Pete Marra is Director of the Earth Commons: Georgetown University’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Laudato Si’ Professor in Biology and the Environment, and Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy
Migration is one of the most engaging phenomena of the animal world and one epitomized by birds. Migratory birds are the Olympiads of the natural world – traveling extreme distances, flying at night in flocks of tens of thousands of individuals, and moving through treacherous terrain with untold obstacles threatening their every move. Today, over 50% of North America’s migratory species are declining at unprecedented rates – and for most of these species we don’t know why.
Marra will take us on a hemispheric journey to discover the unknown migrations of the birds, explaining the latest technologies used for tracking and why it’s up to us to uncover the secrets of their biology to protect these marvelous species.
Pete Marra earned a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College in 1998 and an M.S. from Louisiana State University in 1989 and is Director of the Earth Commons: Georgetown University’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Laudato Si’ Professor in Biology and the Environment, and Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy. Marra recently moved to Georgetown University after a 20-year career at the Smithsonian Institution, most recently as Director of the Migratory Bird Center. Marra uses birds to help us define and understand broad environmental issues, tackling contemporary conservation challenges by addressing fundamental knowledge gaps at the intersection of ornithology, ecology and conservation biology. His transformative work—including quantifying the loss of 3 billion birds from North America, the impacts of climate change, the astounding ecological destruction of outdoor cats and emerging diseases such as West Nile virus—explores the interaction between humans and our environment and poses critical questions to humanity about the environmental costs of urbanization and globalization. His work spans biology, engineering, physiology, and biogeochemistry, and has helped ignite new research into the study of full life cycles of migratory animals while furthering technological advances, including the use of genetics, stable isotopes and remote tracking technologies. With over 250 peer-reviewed papers, Marra uses integrative techniques and rigorous quantitative approaches, leveraging data to link fundamental ecological advances to address conservation problems and reimagine approaches that inform policy. Over 55 current and former students and his position as founding director of the Earth Commons, demonstrate Marra’s dedication to moving research to implementation and educating the next generation of diverse scientists.