Upcoming Programs

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.

 

Past Programs

(NOC members, login to view and listen to presentations)

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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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. …

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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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