Upcoming Programs

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
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, 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.

Past Programs

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John Fitzpatrick – Reflections on American Ornithology, Past, Present, and Future

October 1, 2012

John Fitzpatrick became the Louis Agassiz Fuertes Director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in August 1995. He received his BA from Harvard in 1974 and a PhD from Princeton in 1978. From 1988 to 1995, John was executive director and senior research biologist at the Archbold Biological Station. From 1978 to 1988 he was…

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Richard L. Soffer, MD – Collecting Ornithological Books: A Personal Odyssey

June 4, 2012

Richard Soffer, retired professor of Molecular Biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, collected a remarkable and extensive series of ornithological books that span the centuries from the late Renaissance to modern times, with particular attention to works that feature the various methods and techniques that have been used to reproduce…

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Edson Endrigo – Endemic, Endangered and Elusive Birds of Brazil

May 7, 2012

Born in São Paulo, Brazil, Edson Endrigo started to watch birds at an early age on his grandfather’s farm. He has been a professional bird photographer since 1995, specializing in rare, threatened or little known species. Edson has successfully published nine photographic books of birds of various regions of Brazil. He started his career as…

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Denver Holt – Breeding Ecology of Snowy Owls

April 2, 2012

Denver Holt, a graduate of the University of Montana, is founder and president of the Owl Research Institute (ORI), a nonprofit organization located in Charlo, Montana. A dedicated field researcher in North and Central America, Holt believes that long-term field studies are the primary means to understanding trends in natural history. In 2000, he was…

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Alexander (“Sasha”) Keyel – Habitat Selection in Grassland Birds

March 5, 2012

Alexander “Sasha” Keyel protects birds and the places they live. With the possible exception of Homer Simpson, there are few people who can say that doughnuts played an important role in their lives. Sasha is one of these people. “Growing up, my father would take my siblings and me bird watching,” says Keyel, a Tufts biology…

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Richard Crossley – Past, Present and Future—A Story Told in a Yorkshire Brogue Through a Camera Lens that Loves Color and Art

February 6, 2012
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Mark A. Pokras – Birding with a Wildlife Veterinarian

January 9, 2012

As head of the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine’s Wildlife Clinic, environmental crusader Mark Pokras teaches his students to view veterinary medicine through a conservation lens – and to communicate the message that human, animal and environmental health are interlinked.

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Mark Faherty – The Cape Cod Osprey Project: Voyeuristic Citizen Science

December 5, 2011

Mark Faherty has been the Science Coordinator at Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary since August of 2007. While his current projects involve everything from oysters and horseshoe crabs to bats and butterflies, he has studied primarily bird ecology for the last 16 years, working on research projects in Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Mexico, the…

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Andrés Bosso – Aves Argentinas: 95 Years of Protecting Birds and their Habitats in the Other Side of the Americas

October 3, 2011

Andrés Bosso has been working on behalf of bird conservation for more than 25 years. In 1996 he began working for Aves Argentinas, a partner of BirdLife International. From 1996 to 2010 he was the CEO of this prestigious NGO, which was founded in 1916. Bosso is a member of the Global Council of BirdLife…

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Lisa Sorenson – Conservation in the Caribbean: Challenges, Successes and Urgent Needs

June 6, 2011

Lisa Sorenson, Research Assistant and Professor of Biology at Boston University and President, West Indian Whistling-Duck Working Group of the Society of Caribbean Ornithology, received her PhD in conservation biology, behavioral ecology, and hormonal mechanisms of behavior in birds at University of Minnesota in 1990. Sorenson’s recent research addresses the potential effects of global warming…

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Bret Whitney – Birds of Brazil and Peru: New Birds and Old Places

May 2, 2011

Bret Whitney is one of the founders of Field Guides, a Research Associate of the Museum of Natural Science at Louisiana State University, an Associate of the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell, 2004 recipient of the ABA’s Ludlow Griscom award, and an eternal optimist about everything except Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Bret guides many Brazil tours and,…

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Ted Floyd – Birding at Night

April 4, 2011

Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding, the flagship publication of the American Birding Association. He has published widely on birds and ecological topics. Ted has written more than 125 articles, with contributions to scholarly journals such as Ecology, Oecologia, Animal Behaviour, Journal of Animal Ecology, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution and contributions to…

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Scott Weidensaul – Birds of a Feather

March 7, 2011

Born in 1959, Scott Weidensaul has lived almost all of his life among the long ridges and endless valleys of eastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of the central Appalachians, a landscape that has defined much of his work. His writing career began in 1978 with a weekly natural history column in the local newspaper, the…

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Kurk Dorsey – Of Mallards and Men

February 7, 2011

Kurk Dorsey, Associate Professor of History, University of New Hampshire, received his BA at Cornell University, his MA at Northwestern University and his PhD at Yale. His current fields of research are US foreign policy, environmental history and history of Canada. Professor Dorsey approaches the history of the environmental movement’s signal law, the migratory bird…

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Joey Mason – Kestrels and Cranberries

January 3, 2011

Joey Mason is a master bander who has been involved in several raptor-related projects over the years. She has been researching Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and American Kestrels around cranberry bogs in southeastern Massachusetts since 1989.

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Henry Lumsden – Restoration of Trumpeter Swans

December 6, 2010

Henry Lumsden was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and grew up in Aberdeenshire. He joined the RAF in 1941 were he was trained as a pilot and served as a flying instructor. After the war he joined the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests (later renamed Ministry of Natural Resources) as a biologist. He has intensely…

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Drew Wheelan – Beyond Deepwater: Examining the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the Lessons Learned

November 1, 2010

Drew Wheelan, who grew up in southern Rhode Island, graduated from Evergreen State College in 1996 and since then has worked with birds throughout the United States, Amazonian Peru and Ecuador, as well as Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico. A fight with a life threatening illness lent to him a fresh perspective on life and…

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Alvaro Jaramillo – Birds, Birding, and the Field Guide to Chile

October 4, 2010

Alvaro (Al) Jaramillo was born in Chile but began birding in Toronto, Canada, where he lived as a youth. He studied ecology and evolution in Toronto and Vancouver, earning a masters degree studying co-evolution in Argentine cowbirds. Research forays and backpacking trips introduced Alvaro to the riches of the Neotropics, where he has traveled extensively.…

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Joan Walsh – Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas II

June 7, 2010

Joan Walsh is the Coordinator of the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas 2, and has been working with Mass Audubon since 2006. Her interests are in the interaction between landscapes and bird communities, and in bird breeding behavior. During the 1990s Joan was the Director of Research at New Jersey Audubon Society where she coordinated their…

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David Bird – The American Kestrel: The White Mouse for Raptor Research?

May 3, 2010

Professor of Wildlife Biology and Director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, Dr. DavidBird’s main research interest is focused on raptorial birds, which encompasses virtually all aspects of their biology. He has at his disposal a captive colony of 200 or more American Kestrels. He collaborates with other scientists…

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