Craig Benkman – Diversification and speciation in crossbills: the importance of a “charmed life”
October 7, 2019
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) and have likely diverged with gene flow. I will emphasize assortative flocking behavior, because crossbills flock year-round and choose mates from within flocks, and because high levels of assortative flocking can evolve as a barrier to gene flow without geographic isolation. Importantly, tradeoffs in feeding performance affect the benefits from assortative flocking, and thus variation in the strength of feeding tradeoffs influences the extent of assortative flocking. We find that variation in feeding tradeoffs during breeding can seemingly account for differences in premating reproductive isolation among locations for a pair of crossbill taxa, and for the overall levels of premating reproductive isolation and genomic divergence between different taxa of crossbills.
Craig Benkman is a Professor and Robert B. Berry Distinguished Chair in Ecology at the University of Wyoming. Before moving to Wyoming in 2004, Craig was on the faculty in the Department of Biology at New Mexico State University. He received a B.A. from UC Berkeley, a M.S. from Northern Arizona University, a Ph.D. from State University of New York at Albany, and conducted postdoctoral research at Princeton University and the University of British Columbia. Craig is an evolutionary ecologist and ornithologist who has published about 100 peer-reviewed papers pertaining mostly to the ecology, evolution, and conservation of birds. He is a Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and received the E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award from the American Society of Naturalists in 2014 and the William Brewster Memorial Award from the American Ornithological Society in 2019.
Dr. David M. Bird – Can Drones Help Our Bird Populations?
November 4, 2019
Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology
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, oceanography and now, small UVS are being used in the field of bird research and management, for example conducting population surveys, tracking radio-tagged birds, sensing and observing birds in inaccessible or dangerous places, mapping and monitoring bird habitats, and deterring nuisance bird species. Join Dr. David M. Bird as he explores these applications of UAS for research, management, and conservation in the world of birds.
As an Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Dr. Bird has published close to 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers and supervised 50 graduate students on a wide range of wildlife themes, mostly on birds of prey, but more recently on the application of UAVs (drones) to wildlife research and conservation. Until his retirement to Vancouver Island in 2013, he taught several university-level courses, including ornithology, wildlife conservation, animal behaviour, and scientific/public communication. He has written and/or edited ten books, the most recent ones being Pocket Birds of Canada in 2016 and the second edition of Birds of Canada in 2017. Dr. Bird is a past-president of both the Raptor Research Foundation Inc. and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists, as well as an elected Fellow of both the American Ornithologists= Society, the International Ornithological Union and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. He currently sits on the boards of Bird Studies Canada and Unmanned Systems Canada. Besides his innumerable public lectures and radio, television and newspaper appearances, Dr. Bird was a regular columnist on birds for The Montreal Gazette for almost three decades. He continues to write a bird column for both BirdWatcher’s Digest and Canadian Wildlife magazines and does a biweekly video blog for Brome Bird News. In 2017, the Society of Canadian Ornithologists gave him the Doris Spiers Award for outstanding lifetime contributions to Canadian ornithology.
Morgan Tingley – The Journey of Birds Across Space and Time
December 2, 2019
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Connecticut
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 in a multitude of ways. Join Dr. Tingley on a journey across our nation and through the last century, walking in the footsteps of past zoologists to compare their world to the one we see today, to learn how climate change has already dramatically changed the lives of birds.
Morgan Tingley joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut in 2014, after serving as a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Princeton University. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to this, he received a B.A. from Harvard University and a M.Sc. from Oxford University. He is an elected fellow of the American Ornithological Society and a research associate with the Institute for Bird Populations. He is a recipient of the “Wings across the Americas” conservation award from the U.S. Forest Service, and the Young Professional Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society. His 45 research papers have been covered widely by the popular press, with features by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and on National Public Radio.
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?
January 6, 2020
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 others are somewhat cooperative, and small unornamented males mimic female morphology and behaviour. Nearly all ornamented males carry individually distinctive plumage coloration and patterns. How and why did this hyperdiversity in behaviour and morphology evolve, and how does it persist? A chance chromosomal mutation 4 million ago started this unique situation, but it persists through complex social interactions. Uneasy alliances occur between certain males despite their fundamental competition for mates. Although there is strong sexual selection, with many females choosing to mate with particular males and most males mating with none each year, all three morphs and the extensive plumage variation persists. What has thwarted directional selection for one type of male in this case? My talk will cover genetics, development, identity signals, mate choice, and the social behavior that maintains these complex polymorphisms.
David Lank started studying shorebirds during the summer of 1972, when he demonstrated the use of star compasses by migrant semipalmated sandpipers for his undergraduate thesis research at Marlboro College, Vermont. Following a MSc at the University of Minnesota and PhD at Cornell on the behavioral ecology of sandpipers at migratory stopover sites, he joined Lew Oring to study polyandry in spotted sandpipers. In 1984 he began fieldwork on the complex mating system of ruffs, which continues to this day, including work with a captive breeding flock since 1985. Following a decade as a researcher at Queens University, Ontario, he is now at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver BC, Canada, where he has supervised research on the breeding biology of western sandpipers and phalaropes, migration and non-breeding season biology of shorebirds in British Columbia, Mexico and northern South America. His more recent research has emphasized the role of the change in ‘danger landscapes’ brought about by resurgent raptor populations on the migratory and non-breeding biology of shorebirds.
Sarah Hird – Birds and Bacteria: The Avian Microbiome
February 3, 2020
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 morphological, ecological and phylogenetic diversity are immense. All birds have microbiomes - the communities of microorganisms that exist on and in birds. Microbiomes performs various functions for their hosts but can also have little or negative effects on host biology. The microbes within the microbiome benefit from their association with a host, but can also be negatively affected. The Hird Lab uses the genomic information of the microbiome and computational methods to address this question: What can the microbiome tell us about birds - and specifically, bird evolution?
Sarah Hird is an assistant professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology department at the University of Connecticut. She is an evolutionary biologist interested in how the microbes that live on and in birds (collectively, the “microbiome”) have affected bird biology and evolution. She received a Master’s degree from the University of Idaho, a PhD from Louisiana State University and was a UC Davis Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Davis. Outside the lab, she is devoted to diversifying Academia and supporting women in science. Outside Academia, she enjoys playing Legos with her kids.
Jennie Duberstein – Working across borders to conserve birds and habitats in the southwest US and northwest Mexico
April 6, 2020
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 biological needs, but also the social needs of the region. The Sonoran Joint Venture is a binational partnership the works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. Join Dr. Jennie Duberstein, Sonoran Joint Venture Coordinator, to learn how the SJV brings together partners from both sides of the border to develop and implement innovative mechanisms to address the biggest conservation priorities of the region and ensure a healthy landscape for birds, other wildlife, and people.
Dr. Jennie Duberstein is a wildlife biologist and conservation social scientist who has spent her professional career working to build partnerships for bird and habitat conservation across the United States and northwest Mexico. She has directed environmental education programs, developed community-based conservation projects in the U.S.-Mexico border region, developed and taught courses and workshops on bird identification, ecotourism, and bird monitoring, and has studied species including Double-crested Cormorant and wading birds in Sonora and Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Arizona. Jennie has also worked with young birders for many years, directing field courses, summer camps, and conferences, and generally helping to connect young people with opportunities and each other. Jennie received her B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Virginia Tech and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment.
Gail Patricelli – Robots, Telemetry, & the Sex Lives of Wild Birds Using technology to study & protect an enigmatic bird
June 1, 2020
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 the flamboyant peacock could be shaped by the same process that makes the peahen so perfectly camouflaged. There is now strong support for Darwin’s answer to this question, the process he termed sexual selection, proposing that the courting sex must be elaborate because the courted sex demands it. But how can we study the conversations males and females in non-human animals have about mating? One way to do this is to participate, controlling one side of the conversation with a robot. Gail Patricelli will talk about using robotic females and other technology to study courtship behaviors in the greater sage-grouse, and how such research informs conservation of this iconic North American bird and its habitat.
Gail Patricelli is a professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis. Professor Patricelli and members of her lab study bioacoustics, the evolution of breeding behaviors, and the impacts of noise pollution on birds.
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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
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…Read More
Emily DuVal – Dancing Birds, Sexual Selection, and the Evolution of Cooperation in a Tropical Forest
Males of many species engage in fierce competition for mates. That competition can take the form of intense battles with rivals or flashy displays that attract females, but in just a few species, males do something truly unusual: instead of competing, they cooperate. Male lance-tailed manakins form long-terms two-male partnerships and display together for females,…Read More
Richard Prum – Mate Choice, Sexual Conflict, and Sexual Autonomy: Everything you ever wanted to know about duck sex, but were afraid to ask
Mate choice is well appreciated mechanism in the evolution of avian ornaments. However, sexual coercion and sexual violence can also influence avian breeding systems, leading to sexual conflict. This talk will explore sexual conflict in waterfowl, bowerbirds, and lek evolution. The conclusion is that freedom of choice matters to birds. Sexual autonomy actively evolves in…Read More
Matthew Kamm – Avian Real Estate in a Buyer’s Market: What Nest Box Programs Can Tell Us About American Kestrels
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…Read More
Dr. Katharine Parsons – Piping Plover Protection in Massachusetts: Recovering Populations and Facing Climate Change
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. …Read More
Dr. Edward O. Wilson – Half Earth: A plea to save 50% of our lands and oceans for humans and biodiversity
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…Read More
Dr. David Mizrahi – Connecting the Dots: Understanding Dramatic Declines in a Widespread Migratory Shorebird
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…Read More
Dr. Nils Warnock – Wings over borders – migration and conservation of shorebirds around the Pacific Basin
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…Read More
Dr. Geoffrey Hill – Speciation and Sexual Selection as processes to maintain Mitronuclear Coadaptation
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
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.…Read More
Dr. Richard (Rob) Bierregaard – Tracking Ospreys in the Age of Silicon: Migration, Ecology, and Conservation
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…Read More
Dr. Jonathan Regosin – Thirty Years of Piping Plover Conservation and Management in Massachusetts: Long-term Trends and Recent Developments
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…Read More
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…Read More
Dr. James van Remsen – The cavalcade of discovery of new species and genera of South American bird … and how long will it continue?
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…Read More
Dr. Joel Cracraft – How many “kinds” of birds are there on Earth: the intersection of science and conservation policy
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More