Upcoming Programs

Dr. Katharine Parsons – Piping Plover Protection in Massachusetts: Recovering Populations and Facing Climate Change

January 7, 2019

Begun in 1987, Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP) annually monitors Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) nesting activity and protects habitat at 195 beach sites along 260 km of Massachusetts’ coastline.  Nesting at these locations are approximately 220 pairs of plovers—a third of the Massachusetts population listed as “threatened” under state and federal endangered species laws.  The CWP has investigated occurring and predicted climate change impacts to beach nesting Piping Plovers including rates of nest overwash.  In addition, we have evaluated the impact of beach stabilization practices such as renourishment and beach re-vegetation on brood range and overall nesting success.  Very little information is available to assist in guiding these practices with regard to optimizing habitat for plovers.  As coastal conditions worsen from climate change effects, the stakes will increase for both protecting the built environment and providing beach habitat for endangered wildlife.

Katharine Parsons, Ph.D., Director, Coastal Waterbird Program, Mass Audubon, received her Bachelor’s degree from Smith College and Ph.D. in Ecology from Rutgers University.  She has 35 years of experience in coastal waterbird research, management and policy in the northeast.  Since 2011, Dr. Parsons has directed Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program which works with coastal communities throughout Massachusetts to protect rare birds and their habitats. Her research has been published in over 45 peer-reviewed scientific publications. She is past-President of the Waterbird Society. In addition, Dr. Parsons is a Lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design where she has taught courses in landscape ecology, and currently teaches a seminar in coastal ecology entitled Changing Natural and Built Coastal Environments.  over 45 peer-reviewed scientific publications. She is past-President of the Waterbird Society. In addition, Dr. Parsons is a Lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design where she has taught courses in landscape ecology, and currently teaches a seminar in coastal ecology entitled Changing Natural and Built Coastal Environments.

Matthew Kamm – Avian Real Estate in a Buyer's Market: What Nest Box Programs Can Tell Us About American Kestrels

February 4, 2019

American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) are North America's smallest raptor species. Once regarded as the most common raptor in America, kestrels have been declining across many parts of their large range over the past decades. Nest box programs aimed at addressing the limited breeding habitat for this species have popped up all across the continent, yet in many cases, occupancy rates in these artificial cavities are low. What separates the good real estate from the bad? How do the kestrel's prospects look as we enter the 21st century? This presentation offers a few answers, and a lot more questions.

After graduating from Brandeis University in 2009, Matt decided to turn his love of birds into a career with Mass Audubon. As a Bird Conservation Assistant, he did field surveys and writing for the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2, collaborated on the first two State of the Birds reports, adapted Audubon Vermont's successful Foresters for the Birds program for Massachusetts, and launched Mass Audubon's American Kestrel Nest Box program. He is currently a Ph.D Candidate working with Dr. Michael Reed at Tufts University, where he collects data on 100+ kestrel nest boxes across Massachusetts to learn more about habitat use in these fascinating falcons.

Dr. Pamela Loring – Tracking Offshore Movements of Shorebirds and Seabirds

May 6, 2019

Recent advances in wildlife tracking technologies now make it possible to track movements of small-bodied birds at unprecedented scales. Since 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners have deployed miniaturized transmitters on hundreds of seabirds (Common and Roseate Terns) and shorebirds (Piping Plovers and Red Knots) in the northeastern U.S. and Canada. This presentation highlights key findings revealed by these studies; including new information on offshore migratory routes to wintering destinations in the Caribbean and South America; and influences of weather patterns such as supportive tail-winds and deflection by hurricanes. This effort is funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and provides new information for assessments of proposed offshore energy facilities in the U.S. Atlantic.

Pam Loring is a Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds, and works on a range of projects related to the conservation and management of shorebirds and seabirds throughout the Western Hemisphere. She received a PhD in Environmental Conservation from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a MS in Biological and Environmental Sciences from the University of Rhode Island. For her graduate research, she used satellite and digital VHF technology to estimate movement patterns and habitat use of seaducks, shorebirds, and terns in the western North Atlantic.

Dr. John Marzluff – Gifts of the Crow

June 3, 2019

Crows are mischievous, playful, social, and passionate. They have brains that are huge for their body size and exhibit an avian kind of eloquence. They mate for life and associate with relatives and neighbors for years. And because they often live near people—in our gardens, parks, and cities—they are also keenly aware of our peculiarities, staying away from and even scolding anyone who threatens or harms them and quickly learning to recognize and approach those who care for and feed them, even giving them numerous, oddly touching gifts in return. The ongoing connection between humans and crows—a cultural co-evolution—has shaped both species for millions of years. And the characteristics of crows that allow this symbiotic relationship are language, delinquency, frolic, passion, wrath, risk-taking, and awareness—seven traits that humans find strangely familiar.

With his extraordinary research on the intelligence and startling abilities of corvids—crows, ravens, and jays—scientist John Marzluff tells amazing stories of these brilliant birds in Gifts of the Crow, shining a light on their fascinating characteristics and behaviors. Teamed with artist and fellow naturalist Tony Angell, they offer an in-depth look at these complex creatures and our shared behaviors, illustrated with gorgeous line drawings. Crows gather around their dead, warn of impending doom, recognize people, commit murder of other crows, lure fish and birds to their death, drink beer, turn on lights to stay warm, design and use tools, use cars as nutcrackers, windsurf and sled to play, and work in tandem to get cheese whiz out of a can.  Their marvelous brains allow them to think, plan, and reconsider their actions.

With its abundance of funny, awe-inspiring, and poignant stories, Gifts of the Crow portrays creatures who are nothing short of amazing. A testament to years of painstaking research, this fully illustrated, riveting work is a thrilling look at one of nature’s most wondrous creatures.

John Marzluff, Ph.D., is Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington.  His research has been the focus of articles in the New York Times, National Geographic, Audubon, Boys Life, The Seattle Times, and National Wildlife.  PBS’s NATURE featured his raven research in its production, "Ravens," and his crow research in the film documentary, "A Murder of Crows."

Extended Biography:

John Marzluff is James W. Ridgeway Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington.  His graduate (Northern Arizona University) and initial post-doctoral (University of Vermont) research focused on the social behavior and ecology of jays and ravens.  He was especially interested in communication, social organization, and foraging behavior (e.g., The Pinyon Jay, 1992, Academic Press).  His current research brings this behavioral approach to pressing conservation issues including raptor management, management of pest species, and assessment of nest predation.  His book, In the Company of Crows and Ravens (with Tony Angell, 2005 Yale U. Press) blends biology, conservation, and anthropology to suggest that human and crow cultures have co-evolved.  This book won the 2006 Washington State Book Award for general nonfiction.  With his wife, Colleen, he has just published Dog Days, Raven Nights (2011 Yale University Press), which combines reflection with biology and the recreational pursuit of dog sledding to show how a life in science blooms.  Gifts of the Crow (2012 Free Press) applies a neurobiological perspective to understand the amazing feats of corvids.  Welcome to Subirdia (2015 Yale University Press) details the urban ecology of birds, their challenges and triumphs, and how we can best conserve them. He has led studies on the effects of military training on falcons and eagles in southwestern Idaho, the effects of timber harvest, recreation, and forest fragmentation on goshawks and marbled murrelets in western Washington and Oregon, conservation strategies for Pacific Island crows, and the effects of urbanization on songbirds in the Seattle area.  Dr. Marzluff has authored over 150 scientific papers on various aspects of bird behavior and wildlife management.  He is a member of the board of editors for Acta Ornithologica, Landscape Ecology and Ecological Applications.  He has edited Avian Conservation: Research and Management that includes 40 chapters detailing research approaches to conserve avian biodiversity throughout the world (1998, Island Press), Avian Conservation and Ecology in an Urbanizing World (2001, Kluwer Academic Publishers), Radiotelemetry and Animal Populations (2001, Academic Press), Urban Ecology: An International Perspective on the Interaction Between Humans and Nature (2008, Springer), and Perspectives in Urban Ecology (2011, Springer). He is currently a member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Team for the critically endangered Mariana Crow, a former member of the Washington Biodiversity Council, and a Fellow of the American Ornithologist's Union.

Past Programs

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Dr. Edward O. Wilson – Half Earth: A plea to save 50% of our lands and oceans for humans and biodiversity

December 3, 2018

Dr. Wilson will be flanked by Peter Alden who will introduce him and guide a lively Q&A from Nuttall and audience members.  Dr. Robert Ridgely will end with a short, illustrated presentation on the history of the Cordillera Azul Antbird recently named for Dr. Wilson. Edward O. Wilson is recognized as one of the creators…

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Dr. David Mizrahi – Connecting the Dots: Understanding Dramatic Declines in a Widespread Migratory Shorebird

November 5, 2018

Dr. Mizrahi will review 20 years of research to unravel connectivity in Semipalmated Sandpipers populations throughout the annual cycle and determine what factors during the winter, migration and breeding periods underlie significant declines in populations, especially those migrating through the Western Atlantic region. He will also discuss conservation efforts that address several of the major…

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Dr. Nils Warnock – Wings over borders – migration and conservation of shorebirds around the Pacific Basin

October 1, 2018

Nils will talk about the migration and conservation of shorebirds around the Pacific Basin, focusing on studies he and collaborators have done over the past 30 years.  His initial research focused on the migration of small shorebirds like the Western Sandpiper and the Dunlin through western North America. More recent work looked at large-scale movements…

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Dr. Geoffrey Hill – Speciation and Sexual Selection as processes to maintain Mitronuclear Coadaptation

June 4, 2018

Eukaryoic performance hinges on the coordinated function of the products of the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes in achieving oxidative phosphorylation.  Because two genomes are involved, function is maintained only through perpetual selection for mitonuclear coadaptation.  He will discuss how these fundamental features of the genomic architecture of eukaryotes results in both pre-and post-zygotic sorting for…

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Charles van Rees – Marshbirds in Paradise: The Ecology and Conservation of the Hawaiian Gallinule

May 7, 2018

The Hawaiian Islands have experienced waves of avian extinctions during Polynesian and European colonization, becoming a hotspot for the loss of bird species. Although the plight of Hawaiian forest birds is well known, conservation issues surrounding Hawaiian waterbirds and the wetlands that support them are less well understood. This presentation integrates the full research of…

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David Brinker – Rise and Fall of Northern Goshawks in the Central Appalachian Mountains

April 2, 2018

Persecuted for years as a robber of game, as attitudes have slowly changed and over the past 50 years, Northern Goshawks have expanded their breeding range and increased their population size in the Northeastern U. S., including the Central Appalachians. Since 1977 Dave Brinker has studied goshawks in both Northeastern Wisconsin and the Central Appalachian…

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Dr. Daniel Mennill – Wild birds learn to sing from experimental vocal tutors

March 5, 2018

In eight groups of animals, including humans and songbirds, young animals learn to vocalize by listening to adults. Experimental evidence from laboratory studies supports this hypothesis for vocal learning, however there is no experimental evidence of vocal learning in wild animals. Dr. Mennill developed an innovative playback technology to simulate vocal tutors in the wild.…

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Dr. Richard (Rob) Bierregaard – Tracking Ospreys in the Age of Silicon: Migration, Ecology, and Conservation

February 5, 2018

When, in the mid 1990s, technological advances permitted us to build radio transmitters capable of sending signals to satellites orbiting the earth and small enough to place on an Osprey, windows into their lives away from the nest were thrown wide open. Thanks to bird band recoveries, we already knew that most North American Ospreys…

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Dr. Jonathan Regosin – Thirty Years of Piping Plover Conservation and Management in Massachusetts: Long-term Trends and Recent Developments

January 8, 2018

The Piping Plover is a state and federally threatened shorebird, with about 10,000 adults remaining, worldwide.  Massachusetts has an important role to play in Piping Plover conservation, accounting for approximately 40% of the Piping Plovers breeding on the Atlantic Coast.  The speaker will review 30 years of progress in Piping Plover conservation and research, challenges…

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Dr. Amanda Rodewald – A Bird’s Eye View of Nature in the City

December 4, 2017

With urban land expected to triple between 2000-2030, understanding the ecology of cities is sorely needed to safeguard ecosystem services, biodiversity, and our own well-being. One common target of urban conservation is birds, owing to both their charisma and sensitivity to environmental change. Though urban development is a real threat to birds across all ecosystem…

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Dr. James van Remsen – The cavalcade of discovery of new species and genera of South American bird … and how long will it continue?

November 6, 2017

In the 1950s, Ernst Mayr said that the age of discovery of new species of birds had largely ended. Since then, at least 125 new species of birds have been discovered in South America alone, including more than 40 by the LSU Museum of Natural Science. This represents an increase in species richness of about…

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Dr. Joel Cracraft – How many “kinds” of birds are there on Earth: the intersection of science and conservation policy

October 2, 2017

Scientists have long debated the idea of species, and these different conceptions have impacted the way we understand how birds evolved.  These debates have also influenced people’s views of avian diversity as well as avian conservation policy. This talk will lay out these debates and show how they have real-world consequences for conserving global avian…

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Frank Gill – Bird Species Taxonomy: Then and Now

June 5, 2017

Major changes in world bird taxonomy are underway, driven by advances in speciation concepts and practices. World bird lists are challenged to keep up with the surge in the number of species recognized, together with their nomenclature and phylogeny. Birders are challenged to keep up with the lumps, splits, name changes, and sequences. This talk…

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Dr. Aevar Petersen – Icelandic birds, mainly seabird population changes

May 1, 2017

The talk will focus on three main issues; (1) introduction to the Icelandic bird fauna; (2) seabirds and factors influencing population changes; and (3) seabird monitoring as a conservation tool. The breeding bird fauna of Iceland has rather few species, about 80, but this is made up in numbers. The principal bird groups are anseriform…

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Dr. Leonardo Campagna – The genetic basis of plumage differences in the rapid capuchino seedeater radiation

April 3, 2017

As an evolutionary biologist I seek to understand how biological diversity is generated at the molecular level. I study a group of South American birds known as capuchino seedeaters, which may still be in the process of becoming species. Capuchinos are sexually dimorphic, and males from different species differ in secondary sexual characters such as…

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Lorna J. Gibson – Built to Peck: How Woodpeckers Avoid Brain Injury

March 6, 2017

Woodpeckers peck on trees to feed on insects and sap, to build cavity nests and to drum during courtship. Measurements by a group of neurologists in the 1970s, using high speed video, indicate that woodpeckers can tolerate remarkably high decelerations on impact: up to 1500g, much higher than the level of 100g that causes brain…

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Michael D. Sorenson – Contrasting Patterns of Genetic Divergence in Obligate Brood Parasites: Implications for the Genetics of Host-Specific Adaptation

February 6, 2017

Avian brood parasites and their hosts have served as important models of coevolution and have produced a spectacular diversity of behavioral, morphological and physiological adaptations and counter-adaptations, our knowledge of which has expanded as additional species in Asia and the southern hemisphere have received intensive study. Until recently, essentially nothing was known about the genetic…

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Tom Sayers – Rebuilding Local Populations of the American Kestrel – One Box at a Time

January 9, 2017

This presentation focuses on Tom’s energetic crusade to rebuild the American Kestrel population in northeast Connecticut, from 2009 when he began, up through the 2016 breeding season. Presented on January 9, 2017.

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Christopher Elphick – Canaries in the Salt Marsh: The Conservation of Saltmarsh Sparrows and other Tidal Marsh Birds

December 5, 2016

This talk describes the status of tidal marsh birds throughout the northeast, and focuses on the specific threats faced by Saltmarsh Sparrows. Presented on December 5, 2016.

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José Antonio Balderrama Torrico – Endemic and Endangered Birds of Bolivia

November 7, 2016

Endemic and Endangered Birds of Bolivia. Presented November 7, 2016.

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