PLEASE NOTE: Upcoming Nuttall monthly meetings will be held virtually until it is safe to meet in person. Details will be provided to members as they become available.
Daniel Field - The dinosaur resurrection: how the demise of the dinosaurs paved the way for the origin of modern birds
February 7, 2022
Strickland Curator of Ornithology at the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology
Modern birds are the most diverse group of terrestrial vertebrate animals, comprising nearly 11,000 living species. They inhabit virtually every corner of the modern world, and exhibit a mind-boggling variety of forms and lifestyles. But how has this awe-inspiring diversity arisen? This talk will explore recent research into how, where, and when the spectacular diversity of living birds, their specialised features, and their extraordinary phenotypic variety have evolved. This exploration will reveal how new fossils, advanced visualisation techniques, and a wealth of new phenotypic and genomic data are providing important new insights into these longstanding evolutionary questions. Advances in all of these areas point to a key event in Earth history as having kick-started the radiation of modern birds: the extinction of the giant dinosaurs. Our research illustrates that the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event nearly wiped out birds alongside their dinosaurian brethren, but the interval immediately following this mass extinction event appears to have witnessed the extremely rapid diversification of modern birds—giving rise to the early ancestors of the major groups of birds alive today. We will seek to unravel the effects of this mass extinction on avian ecology, anatomy, and diversity, and will explore how the recent discovery of the world’s oldest modern bird fossil informs our understanding of the earliest stages of modern bird evolutionary history.
Daniel Field’s research bridges the worlds of avian palaeontology as a lecturer in the Earth Sciences Department at Cambridge, and evolutionary biology as the Strickland Curator of Ornithology at the University of Cambridge Museum of Zoology. He is fascinated by Earth’s living bird diversity, and seeks to understand how modern birds evolved using the fossil record. Daniel’s academic interests were sparked as a bird- and fossil-obsessed child growing up in Calgary, Canada, and since arriving at Cambridge in 2018 his lab has investigated bird evolution on a grand scale—covering over 150 million years of Earth’s history. Daniel also holds a fellowship at Christ’s College, where Charles Darwin studied as an undergraduate.
Autumn-Lynn Harrison - Uniting across hemispheres to discover unknown migratory pathways of birds: Advancing scientific knowledge and translating to conservation
March 7, 2022
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center research ecologist and program manager of the Migratory Connectivity Project
Join Dr. Autumn-Lynn Harrison, a marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, as she shares results from two hemispheric-scale tracking projects, and how the data have been translated into global policy initiatives. Autumn-Lynn was a researcher with the Tagging of Pacific Predators project, and she will discuss her 2018 paper, The Political Biogeography of Migratory Marine Predators, and her experiences going from ecological questions, to policy-relevant answers for seabirds. Since 2014 she has been the Program Manager of the Migratory Connectivity Project (MCP), leading field research in the North American Arctic region to discover the migratory pathways and drivers of at-sea ecology of understudied seabirds and shorebirds. Over the past 6 years, MCP has collected 7 million daily bird locations across 23 species of birds and 600 individuals. She will share recent results from these studies including new insights about three species of jaegers, Glaucous Gulls, Arctic Terns, and Black-bellied Plovers. Finally, she will discuss how all of these data are contributing to multiple collaborative conservation initiatives.
Dr. Autumn-Lynn Harrison joined the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center as a research ecologist in 2014 and is the program manager of the Migratory Connectivity Project. Her work focuses on studying the migrations and habitat use of marine and coastal birds and applying scientific research to conservation and policy questions. She has worked across many systems including leading field projects to track the migrations of seabirds and shorebirds breeding in the Alaskan Arctic and seals in South Africa and California. Her work has contributed to United Nations efforts to identify ecologically significant areas for migratory marine animals in international waters of the North Pacific Ocean and she recently founded the Shorebird Science and Conservation Collective to ensure the recent boom in shorebird tracking data is used quickly for conservation. Before joining the Smithsonian, Harrison worked for the Society for Conservation Biology for 11 years. Harrison earned B.S. Degrees in Environmental Science and Fisheries and Wildlife Science from Virginia Tech, a Graduate Diploma of Science in Tropical Marine Ecology and Fisheries Science from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Tim Birkhead - How we know what we know about birds
April 4, 2022
Fellow of the Royal Society and emeritus professor of behaviour and evolution at the University of Sheffield
We take so much for granted when it comes to birds, but where did our knowledge come from? Although people had been intrigued by birds since the palaeolithic, it was only with the scientific revolution the mid 1600s that a more certain ornithological knowledge began to emerge. This was thanks to the labours of two English pioneers, John Ray and Francis Willughby. Both scholars, but they could hardly have been more different: Ray careful and precise, Willughby the lateral thinker asking questions no one had preciously broached. The result of this extraordinary and exciting collaboration was an encyclopedia of ornithology that became the gold standard for over two centuries and provided the foundation on which all subsequent knowledge of birds rests. Their journey is our journey. We will travel across Europe as our two heroes, visiting other savants, libraries, museums and seabird colonies — including one, Skomer Island, Wales, where I have studied seabirds for the last fifty years.
Tim Birkhead is a Fellow of the Royal Society and emeritus professor of behaviour and evolution at the University of Sheffield. His research on promiscuity and sperm competition in birds helped to re-shape our understanding of bird mating systems. More recently, he and his colleagues also resolved the longstanding mystery of the guillemot’s pear-shaped egg: see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-189LIYa0Y&t=7s Tim has been president of the International Society for Behavioural Ecology and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. He has studied guillemots — mainly on Skomer — since 1972 and has funded the annual monitoring of guillemot breeding success and survival on Skomer through crowd funding since 2014. As well as a passion for research, Tim enjoyed undergraduate teaching for which he won several national awards. He is also committed to the public understanding of science and has written several popular science books, including the award-winning Wisdom of Birds (2008), Bird Sense (2012) and The Most Perfect Thing: the Inside (and Outside) of a Birds’ Egg (2016), the last two of which were short-listed for the Royal Society’s Insight Investment Book Award. He is married and has three children and a dog, and in his spare time enjoys walking, birdwatching, playing the guitar, woodcarving, and painting. He is currently writing Birds and Us — our relationship with birds from the palaeolithic to the present.
Martin Wikelski - ICARUS – A new global IoT system for tracking movements of small migratory birds
May 2, 2022
Director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Radolfzell, Germany, Professor in Biology at the University of Konstanz, and member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
The collective wisdom of the Earth´s animals provides an immense bio-treasure of unprecedented information for humankind. Learning from animals in the ´Internet of Animals´ can help us predict natural catastrophes, forecast global zoonotic disease spreads or safeguard food resources while monitoring in situ every corner of the planet. The evolved senses of animals as well as technical sensors on animal-borne tracking tags enables local earth observations at highest spatial and temporal resolution. To protect and understand the ecosystem services provided by animals, we need to monitor individual animals seamlessly on a global scale. At the same time, these unprecedented life-history data of individual wild animals provide deep, novel insight into fundamental biological processes.
The ICARUS initiative, an international bottom-up, science-driven technology development of small, cheap and autonomous IoT (Internet of Things) sensing devices for animal movement and behavior is aiming towards this: wearables for wildlife. The resulting big data available in the open-source data base Movebank help understand, monitor, predict and protect life on our planet.
Martin Wikelski is the Director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (formerly Ornithology) in Radolfzell (Germany), Professor in Biology at the University of Konstanz and member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Previously, he held positions at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Princeton University. His specialization is the study of global animal movement.
Lauryn Benedict - Divas in the treetops: When and why do female birds sing?
June 6, 2022
Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado
Female bird song is more common and widespread than is generally appreciated. In this presentation Dr. Lauryn Benedict will give an overview of female bird song prevalence and variety. She will discuss what we can learn by studying the songs of female birds, and invite citizen scientists to help advance the field.
Lauryn Benedict is Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. She studies the vocalizations and behavior of wild birds, and she teaches courses on ornithology and animal diversity. Lauryn holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley. You can often find her observing and audio-recording wrens on the public lands of Colorado.
(NOC members, login to view and listen to presentations)
Barbara Vickery and Scott Weidensaul co-edited Birds of Maine Written by the late Peter Vickery in cooperation with a distinguished team of co-authors and editors, the recently published Birds of Maine is the first comprehensive overview of Maine’s rich birdlife in 70 years. Peter, elected to NOC in 1984, spent much of his career focusing…Read More
Jonathan Slaght is the Russia & Northeast Asia Coordinator for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) From 2006-2010, Jonathan Slaght studied Blakiston’s fish owls in Russia for his PhD degree in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Minnesota. These enormous and endangered salmon-eaters live in some of the hardest-to-reach corners of northeast Asia, on…Read More
Mary Caswell Stoddard (Cassie) is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University Birds evolved about 150 million years ago, and today they are the most diverse and colorful land vertebrates. In my group, we are fascinated by the ecological and evolutionary processes that contribute to avian diversity. In…Read More
Sarah Knutie – Finch in a pinch: effects of environmental change on endemic birds in the Galapagos Islands
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Faculty Affiliate University of Connecticut Institute for Systems Geonomics The overarching theme of the Knutie Lab is to understand how birds defend themselves against disease-causing parasites, particularly in response to environmental change. Her talk will take us to the Galapagos Islands, where she uses experimental field studies…Read More
Gail Patricelli – Robots, Telemetry, and the Sex Lives of Wild Birds using technology to study and protect an enigmatic bird
Professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology University of California, Davis Animals use a dizzying array of sounds, smells, colors, dances, electrical fields and seismic vibrations to convince each other to mate. These elaborate courtship signals were a mystery until Darwin’s time—after proposing his theory of natural selection, Darwin was left with the question of how…Read More
Jennie Duberstein – Working across borders to conserve birds and habitats in the southwest US and northwest Mexico
Sonoran Joint Venture Coordinator U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service The southwest United States and northwest Mexico is a region of incredible biological diversity, as well as human diversity. Birds and habitats don’t recognize international boundaries, and neither can our efforts to conserve then. Successful conservation requires cross-border collaboration that takes into account not just the…Read More
Professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior at UC Davis When John James Audubon proclaimed that birds lacked a sense of smell, the study of avian olfaction was doomed to suffer ridicule by ornithology text books for years to come. In recent years, ornithologists have renewed their interest into the sense of smell…Read More
Associate Professor of Biology & Ecology at Penn State University and associate researcher in the ecology department at the Museo de Historia Natural of the San Marcos National University in Lima, Peru Migratory bird populations are undergoing rapid changes at present. Shifts in the timing of migration and breeding, and in range and abundance, are…Read More
Professor of Applied Ecology at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK Migratory bird populations are undergoing rapid changes at present. Shifts in the timing of migration and breeding, and in range and abundance, are being reported in migratory systems across the globe. However, how and why these changes are happening remains unclear.…Read More
Pat Jodice – Searching Sea and Land for the Little Devil: The Ecology and Conservation of the Black-capped Petrel
Leader, U.S. Geological Survey South Carolina Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit and Professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation at Clemson University The Black-capped Petrel or Diablotin, Pterodroma hasitata, is an endangered seabird endemic to the western North Atlantic. Once thought extinct it was rediscovered in 1963 when nests were located in…Read More
Associate Research Professor of History of Claremont Graduate University and Dibner Senior Curator for the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens Robert Ridgway, the Smithsonian’s first Curator of Birds, was one of the world’s top ornithologists, systematists and bird artists, impactful in a wide variety of ways…Read More
The Carolina Parakeet, the Heath Hen, the Passenger Pigeon—when we contemplate how our country’s bird life has changed, we often focus on the handful of species we have lost entirely. But while we have yet to lose a single bird species to our rapidly changing climate, the birds around us have been adapting and changing…Read More
America’s warblers, jays and all other songbirds on earth can be traced back to an origin in Australia. Genetic, fossil and anatomical evidence all point to this conclusion, which is now consensus science. As befits their very long residence, songbirds in Australia are exceptionally diverse in behaviours, with bowerbirds collecting plastic, magpies blinding children, choughs…Read More
Senior Vice President, Research & Collections Gretchen Augustyn Director, Dinosaur Institute Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County A tremendous amount of new fossils of early birds from the Age of the Dinosaurs has been unearthed in the last few decades. In his lecture, Dr. Chiappe will review the many new discoveries related to the…Read More
Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cell Biology University of Connecticut Microorganisms have existed on this planet for billions of years. They have shaped our world in countless important ways. How have microorganisms affected animal evolution? Birds are a globally important clade of animals that are essential components to nearly all terrestrial and many aquatic ecosystems. Their…Read More
David Lank – Competition, cooperation, and deceit among three male morphs of ruffs and the females that choose to mate with them: is this the most complex avian mating system?
University Research Associate Simon Fraser University Ruffs (Philomachus [or Calidris, if you prefer] pugnax) have the most complex mating system of any bird in the world. Three genetically distinct types of males, with different morphologies and mating strategies, attempt to mate at leks with as many females as possible. Most highly ornamented males fight, but…Read More
Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University The suboscines passerines represent almost 15% of the world’s avifauna. One in three Neotropical bird species is a suboscine, making this the perfect group to examine the origins of tropical biodiversity. Many species are widely distributed and can occur in various habitats, whereas others are geographically restricted and exhibit…Read More
Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology McGill University Small unmanned vehicle systems (UVS), sometimes referred to as “drones” and formerly exclusive to militaries, are rapidly advancing in sophistication and availability to civilians. Ranging from hand-launched autonomous airplanes to terrestrial robots to underwater machines, they are increasingly being employed in such areas as agriculture, emergency services, meteorology,…Read More
Professor and Robert B. Berry Distinguished Chair in Ecology University of Wyoming After providing an overview of the patterns and processes driving crossbill diversification, this talk will focus on the premating reproductive isolating barriers contributing to speciation in crossbills. Crossbill are interesting in this regard because many crossbill taxa have diverged recently (<11,000 years ago)…Read More
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…Read More