PLEASE NOTE: Upcoming Nuttall monthly meetings will be held virtually until it is safe to meet in person. Details will be provided as they become available.
Bridget Stutchbury - Why Is Tropical Bird Behavior So Different?
October 3, 2022
Professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto
Dr. Bridget Stutchbury explores why the tropics is a unique natural laboratory that has led to unusual and varied bird behavior compared with temperate-breeding species. A large majority of research on bird behavior has focussed on North American and European breeding birds, largely out of convenience. Over the past few decades, research on tropical birds has surged because so many species are highly threatened. It is a race against time to understand the many evolutionary quirks of tropical birds including year-round and stable territories, equal sex roles in parenting, females who sing and are brightly colored & aggressive, and males who dance together to attract females. We also are beginning to understand how behavior helps or hinders tropical birds when their forests are fragmented and their climate changes.
Bridget Stutchbury is a Professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto. She did her M.Sc. at Queen’s University, her Ph.D. at Yale and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Since the 1980s, she has studied songbirds to understand their behavior, ecology and conservation but has also witnessed first-hand the shocking declines of many species such as tree swallows, bobolinks, and wood thrushes. Dr. Stutchbury has studied the behavior of tropical birds in Panama and the incredible migration journeys of North American songbirds who winter in the tropics. She is author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007) and The Private Lives of Birds (2010) and was featured in the The Messenger, an award-winning 2015 documentary on songbird declines. Her most recent book Behavioural Ecology of Tropical Birds 2nd edition (2022) was written for an academic audience, but every naturalist will delight in new discoveries.
Pete Marra - The Epic Migrations of Birds
November 7, 2022
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.
Kristin Ruegg - The Bird Genoscape Project: Harnessing the power of genomics for migratory bird conservation
December 5, 2022
Assistant Professor at Colorado State University
Most populations of migratory birds are now threatened. It is estimated that the populations of 1 out of every 2 songbirds are declining in the Western Hemisphere with impacts predicted to worsen with climate change. However, because migratory birds have both breeding, migratory and wintering areas and may move vast distances between them, understanding where the steepest population declines are occurring has been difficult or impossible. In my presentation, I will describe our work to address this critical issue as part of The Bird Genoscape Project – an effort to bring together scientists from across the Western Hemisphere to map the migratory routes of migratory songbirds across the Western Hemisphere using genomics.
Kristen Ruegg is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University whose research focuses on the development of innovative genetic-based tools to conserve migratory birds in the face of climate change and other stressors. Ruegg is also the co-founder and co-director of the Bird Genoscape Project whose main goals are: 1) to create comprehensive, visually impactful, migratory flyway maps for birds that can be used to motivate conservation efforts across geographic and political boundaries, and 2) to map the potential for bird populations to adapt to climate change. Ruegg’s presentation will focus on the use of data from the Bird Genoscape Project to understand the process of natural selection across the annual cycle. When not overseeing research as part of the Bird Genoscape Project, Ruegg can be found working to bridge partnerships between academia, NGO’s and governmental agencies across the US, Canada and Latin America in order to translate the science of the Bird Genoscape Project into conservation action.
(NOC members, login to view and listen to presentations)
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
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