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)

Lorna J. Gibson – Built to Peck: How Woodpeckers Avoid Brain Injury

March 6, 2017

Woodpeckers peck on trees to feed on insects and sap, to build cavity nests and to drum during courtship. Measurements by a group of neurologists in the 1970s, using high speed video, indicate that woodpeckers can tolerate remarkably high decelerations on impact: up to 1500g, much higher than the level of 100g that causes brain…

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Michael D. Sorenson – Contrasting Patterns of Genetic Divergence in Obligate Brood Parasites: Implications for the Genetics of Host-Specific Adaptation

February 6, 2017

Avian brood parasites and their hosts have served as important models of coevolution and have produced a spectacular diversity of behavioral, morphological and physiological adaptations and counter-adaptations, our knowledge of which has expanded as additional species in Asia and the southern hemisphere have received intensive study. Until recently, essentially nothing was known about the genetic…

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Tom Sayers – Rebuilding Local Populations of the American Kestrel – One Box at a Time

January 9, 2017

This presentation focuses on Tom’s energetic crusade to rebuild the American Kestrel population in northeast Connecticut, from 2009 when he began, up through the 2016 breeding season. Presented on January 9, 2017.

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Christopher Elphick – Canaries in the Salt Marsh: The Conservation of Saltmarsh Sparrows and other Tidal Marsh Birds

December 5, 2016

This talk describes the status of tidal marsh birds throughout the northeast, and focuses on the specific threats faced by Saltmarsh Sparrows. Presented on December 5, 2016.

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José Antonio Balderrama Torrico – Endemic and Endangered Birds of Bolivia

November 7, 2016

Endemic and Endangered Birds of Bolivia. Presented November 7, 2016.

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Sundev Gombobaatar – Bird Research, Conservation and Birding in Mongolia

October 3, 2016

Dr. Gombobaatar’s presentation covers a brief introduction to Mongolia and bird distribution in different natural habitats, species status and richness, bird research and conservation works, including Regional bird red list and conservation action plans, migration pattern, population threats, birds in wind farms, raptor breeding ecology survey, birding activities, and future actions for Mongolian bird research and conservation. Presented on October 3, 2016.

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Scott Edwards, PhD – Research and Teaching Ornithology at Harvard: Explorations in the New World

June 6, 2016

Research and Teaching Ornithology at Harvard: Explorations in the New World. Presented on June 6, 2016.

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Vincent Spagnuolo – Restore the call: Recent advancements in Common Loon conservation through translocation and health research

May 2, 2016

Recent advancements in Common Loon conservation through translocation and health research. Presented on May 2, 2016.

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Ken Meyer – Seasonal Movements of Rare Florida Raptors: Ecological Intrigue and Conservation Challenges

March 7, 2016

Seasonal movements and ecology of rare Florida raptors: needs and opportunities for protecting Crested Caracaras, Snail Kites, Short-tailed Hawks, and Swallow-tailed Kites. Presented on March 7, 2016.

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John Bates – The Wonders and Tribulations of Africa’s Albertine Rift: Biodiversity, Science and People in a War Zone

February 1, 2016

The Wonders and Tribulations of Africa’s Albertine Rift: Biodiversity, Science and People in a War Zone. Presented on February 1, 2016.

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Tom French – 30 Years Following Peregrine Falcons to Recovery and Beyond

January 4, 2016

Tom discusses his work with Peregrine Falcons in the state, including the impact of raptor photography on knowledge of movements of banded birds. Tom chronicles the loss of nesting Peregrines in the state in 1955 through their current recovery to 32 nesting pairs. Presented on January 4, 2016.

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Steve Hilty – Colombia: Then and Now

December 7, 2015

The focus of this presentation is a look at Colombia and its remarkable biological diversity through the eyes of a young ornithologist, and his wife, as they struggled to carry out fieldwork in the early 1970s. This is followed by a look at Colombia’s unique ornithological history, and its fledgling ecotourism of the late 1970s…

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Tom Stephenson – The Warbler Guide: A New Approach to ID

November 2, 2015

Identifying the warblers and other species singing in the field is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying aspects of birding. However learning and remembering the important ID points of difficult and similar vocalizations can be challenging. This lecture will cover many new techniques that make it easier to identify singing warblers and other species.…

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Tim Laman – Ornithological Adventures in Australia’s Cape York Peninsula

October 5, 2015

In the last couple years, Tim has made several expeditions to the Cape York Peninsula, Australia, photographing, filming, and doing biodiversity survey expeditions, focusing a lot around birds.  It is an area the size of Florida with less than 2000 people (compared to 20 million in FL). His longest expedition was a six-week trip by…

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Mario Cohn-Haft – Birds of the Amazon Revisited: Haffer’s Legacy 40 years Later

June 1, 2015

Nuttall Ornithological Club’s publication number 14 elaborated, in 1974, the most complete and carefully thought-out explanation for the marvelous patterns of distribution of Amazonian birds that has been proposed to this day. Its author, Jurgen Haffer, made a brilliant contribution to the field of South American biogeography that continues to be a powerful influence. But…

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Peter Pyle – Discovering and Conserving Bryan’s Shearwater

May 4, 2015

Bryan’s Shearwater (Puffinus bryani), was described as new to science by Pyle, A. J. Welch, and R. C. Fleischer in 2011, based on a specimen collected in February 1963 on Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Peter will recount discovery of the new species and it’s etymology (named after his grandfather, long-time curator at the Bishop…

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Allison Shultz – History of the House Finch: Introductions, Novel Pathogens and Rapid Adaptation

April 6, 2015

Human-mediated introductions of species into new environments are common today with the ease of global travel, whether they be accidental or intentional. It is critical to understand the genetic effects these introductions have on the new populations as they adapt to their environment and face novel challenges, including diseases. The House Finch, a species native…

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David Wiley / Kevin Powers – Preliminary Results of Great Shearwater Habitat Use in and around Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

March 2, 2015

Dr. David Wiley and Kevin Powers will discuss their research on Great Shearwaters. For the past three years the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary’s science team and collaborators have placed satellite tags on Great Shearwaters to investigate patterns of habitat use, long range movements and bycatch in commercial fisheries. The team is also investigating food…

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Roni Martinez – Neotropical Raptor Research & Conservation

February 3, 2015

Roni Martinez was born in Belize and has always been submersed in nature. He worked as a natural history guide at Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize from 2004 until mid-2014. In 2009, he became Blancaneaux’s first Conservation Officer, the first such position in Belize. In this position, he worked along with many different researchers and conservation…

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Kim Peters – How Airfields in the Northeast Can Provide Benefits to Grassland Birds, Maintain Aircraft Safety and Support Broad-scale Conservation for Declining Species

January 5, 2015

Species associated with grasslands and other open spaces represent one of the most imperiled and rapidly declining groups of birds in North America.  The Northeastern U.S. is increasingly being recognized as an important source of breeding habitat.  For grasshopper sparrows, upland sandpipers, and eastern meadowlarks, airfields provide the some of the largest breeding sites in…

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