Upcoming Programs

We are pleased to announce that Nuttall monthly meetings are back in person at Harvard.

Wendy Puryear--The changing landscape of influenza: the global situation, and its impact on birds of the North Atlantic

December 4, 2023

Scientist at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

Wild birds, especially waterfowl, seabirds, and shorebirds, have long been considered the natural reservoir for Influenza A virus (IAV). The majority of IAV subtypes in wild birds are considered Low Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (LPAI) and cause little to no disease. High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has recently entered into migratory wild birds and has proven to be significantly more lethal, wide spread, and species diverse, than any form of IAV to date. In the past two years HPAI has reached nearly all regions of the globe, decimated many wild bird populations, and spilled over into numerous mammalian species. In this presentation, I will discuss the overall ecology of IAV and update on the current situation with HPAI, how it has challenged what we thought we understood about IAV, and how it has impacted the species we see right here in the North Atlantic.

Wendy Puryear is a Scientist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, studying how viruses are maintained, spread, and evolve in wild animals. She is especially interested in understanding the wide range of factors that impact infectious disease, from adaptations of the virus itself, to the impacts of environmental contaminants, shifting populations, and climate change. In the thick of winter, she spends much of her time organizing and conducting field work on seals off of Cape Cod, where the largest US pupping colonies of grey seals are located. Throughout the year, she works closely with wildlife professionals and stranding networks to look at wildlife ranging from birds to terrestrial and marine mammals. Back at the lab, she works to determine which viruses are circulating in the animals and tries to unravel how and why certain viruses persist. Her current research focus is primarily on Influenza, including the recent High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza, and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.


Nathan W. Cooper--Full annual cycle biology: Lessons from North America’s rarest songbird

January 8, 2024

Research Ecologist
Migratory Bird Center
Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Cooper will present his research on North America’s rarest songbird, the Kirtland’s Warbler. Over the past few decades, Kirtland’s Warblers have undergone a remarkable recovery, from just 167 males in the world in 1987 to more than 2200 males today. In addition to having a compelling conservation story, its small population size and restricted breeding and winter ranges provides a truly unique opportunity to learn more about the fascinating and interconnected annual cycles of songbirds. Cooper will take us on a journey through the annual cycle of the Kirtland’s Warbler and share what we have learned from this rare species.

Nathan Cooper is a behavioral ecologist and conservation biologist. He studies how migratory birds interact with each other and their environments throughout the annual cycle. He is primarily focused on the ecology and conservation of the Kirtland's Warbler, and is currently involved in several science- and conservation-based projects with this recently delisted species. Cooper earned a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University, a M.S. in Biology from Portland State University, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Tulane University. He first joined the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center as a Ph.D. student in 2008, and then was awarded both Predoctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowships there, before being promoted to Research Ecologist in 2020.


Nancy Chen--The complex consequences of dispersal in a fragmented landscape

February 5, 2024

Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Rochester

The movement of individuals within and among populations is an important source of evolutionary change. Our understanding of the impact of individual movement on population dynamics and fitness is limited by our inability to directly measure dispersal distances and the reproductive success of immigrants, except in a few study systems. A long-term study of Federally Threatened Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) at Archbold Biological Station has identified all immigrants since 1990 and directly measured natal dispersal distances for hundreds of individuals, providing a unique opportunity to precisely measure the impact of dispersal on patterns of genetic variation over time and space. Using a 25-year genomic, phenotypic, and pedigree dataset, we disentangle the complex effects of dispersal into and within our study population on levels of genetic diversity and fitness in a fragmented landscape.

Dr. Nancy Chen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Rochester. Dr. Chen received her Ph.D. from Cornell University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis. Research in her lab focuses on the genomic basis of contemporary evolution in natural populations. Her research integrates genomics and long-term demographic studies to characterize the evolutionary processes shaping patterns of variation across the genome through space and time and to link genetic variation to variation in individual phenotypes, fitness, and eventually population dynamics.




Daniel T. Ksepka--Penguins, Past and Present

April 1, 2024

Curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT

Penguins evolved more than 60 million years ago. The rich fossil record of these birds has revealed unexpected forms such as giant (300lb+) penguins, spear-billed penguins, and penguins with red and grey feathers. These fossils provide a window into how penguins adapted to changing environmental conditions such as drifting continents, reorganization of Southern Ocean currents, and the onset of glacial-interglacial cycles. Increasingly, scientists are combining fossil data with observations from living penguins to gain a synthetic understanding of penguin evolution. In 2022, the complete genomes of all living penguins were sequenced and calibrated with dates from fossils, providing once unimaginable insight into species boundaries, aquatic adaptations to everything from vision to metabolism, and population expansions and crashes during the last Ice Age.

Dr. Daniel T. Ksepka is a Curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT and also holds Research Associate positions at the American Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum of Natural History. Dr. Ksepka earned his BS from Rutgers University and a PhD from Columbia University. He has published over 70 peer-reviewed research articles as well as numerous popular articles for venues such as Scientific American and American Scientist. His research focuses on avian phylogeny and anatomy, with a special interest in penguins. Dr. Ksepka has collected penguin fossils in Peru and New Zealand, named 11 extinct penguins species including the 340lb giant penguin Kumimanu fordycei, and participated in the recent sequencing of the complete genomes of all 19 living penguin species.


Allison J. Shultz--Flashy feathers to microscopic mechanisms: How and why birds are colorful

May 6, 2024

Associate Curator, Ornithology, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Join Associate Curator of Ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County as she delves into the world of feathers and their colors. During her talk, she will discuss why color needs to be studied from a bird's perspective rather a human one, and how different forces have shaped the multitude of colors and patterns that we observe today (including some that humans can't see!). She will end her talk by describing some of her current work on the mechanisms underlying the great diversity of colors in birds.

Dr. Allison Shultz is Associate Curator of the Ornithology Department at NHMLAC. With her research, she seeks to understand the evolution of bird diversity, focusing on two major areas: how birds are responding to human-caused environmental changes, and how and why bird colors evolve. Dr. Shultz received her PhD from Harvard University, MS from San Diego State University, and BA from the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to her research, Dr. Shultz is passionate about increasing diversity, inclusion, access, and equity in the sciences, and inspiring a love of nature in everyone.



Martin Wikelski--ICARUS – A new global IoT system for tracking movements of small migratory birds

June 3, 2024

Director, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

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.




Past Programs

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Gail Patricelli – Robots, Telemetry, and the Sex Lives of Wild Birds using technology to study and protect an enigmatic bird

June 7, 2021

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…

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Jennie Duberstein – Working across borders to conserve birds and habitats in the southwest US and northwest Mexico

May 3, 2021

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…

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Gabrielle Nevitt – Following the scent of avian olfaction

April 5, 2021

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…

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Tomas Carlo – Effects of avian frugivory in the structure and resilience of plant communities

March 1, 2021

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…

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Jennifer Gill – Space, time and bird migration: shifting systems in a changing world

February 1, 2021

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.…

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Pat Jodice – Searching Sea and Land for the Little Devil: The Ecology and Conservation of the Black-capped Petrel

January 4, 2021

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…

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Dan Lewis – Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds

December 7, 2020

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…

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Morgan Tingley – The Journey of Birds Across Space and Time

November 2, 2020

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…

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Tim Low – Australia’s Birds Have Populated the World

October 5, 2020

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…

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Luis M. Chiappe – Birding in the Age of Dinosaurs: Advances in Understanding Early Avian Evolution

March 2, 2020

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…

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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…

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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…

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Dr. Gustavo Bravo – The Natural History and Diversification of Neotropical Suboscine Birds

December 9, 2019

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…

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Dr. David M. Bird – Can Drones Help Our Bird Populations?

November 4, 2019

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,…

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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)…

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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…

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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…

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Emily DuVal – Dancing Birds, Sexual Selection, and the Evolution of Cooperation in a Tropical Forest

April 1, 2019

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,…

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Richard Prum – Mate Choice, Sexual Conflict, and Sexual Autonomy: Everything you ever wanted to know about duck sex, but were afraid to ask

March 4, 2019

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…

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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…

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