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

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

Chris Wood, Jessie Barry – Learning & Recording Bird Songs

April 5, 2010

Chris Wood is Project Leader for eBird at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Chris began birding at age five and still gets into the field enough to make the rest of the Cornell staff jealous. His primary interests include bird distribution, identification, vocalizations and conservation throughout the Americas. In addition to his work at the…

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Ernesto Ruelas Inzunza – The State of North American Raptors

March 1, 2010

Since September 2008, Ernesto Inzunza, a postdoctoral fellow at the Bilology Department, Dartmouth College, has been an instructor for a course in tropical biology and will teach Methods in Ecology next summer. His research project is titled The fingerprint of climate change in hawk migration phenology. Ernesto continues to lead the Raptor Population Index Project…

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John Kricher (moderator), Wayne Petersen, Bob Stymeist, Jim Berry, Peter Alden, Shawn Carey, David Larson – Birding: Past, Present, and Future

February 1, 2010

John Kricher is A. Howard Meneely Professor of Biology at Wheaton College, a Fellow in the American Ornithologists Union, and member of the Science Advisory Committee of the Council of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. He has previously served as president of the Association of Field Ornithologists, the Wilson Ornithological Society and the Nuttall Ornithological Club,…

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Becky Harris, Ellen Jedrey – Post-breeding Staging Roseate Terns: Cape Cod and Nantucket are Critical Habitats

January 4, 2010

As Director of MassAudubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program, Becky Harris oversees the monitoring, management and protection of beach nesting birds at over 100 sites throughout southeastern Massachusetts. She also holds an adjunct faculty position at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in the Center for Conservation Medicine. Before coming to Mass Audubon in 2006, she founded…

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Brian Harrington – Knots in Massachusetts

December 7, 2009

Manomet Senior Scientist Brian Harrington has been studying the distribution and coastal ecology of shorebirds since 1972, focusing on migration and southern South American wintering areas. Brian, working with hundreds of cooperators, has led research on shorebird use of coastal habitat at migration stopover sites, as well as identifying major migration sites of shorebirds throughout…

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Ian Newton – Findings from a Long-term Study of Sparrowhawks

November 2, 2009

Dr. Ian Newton is respected world-wide both as a biologist with a special interest and expertise in this subject and as a communicator. He is a seasoned and popular key note speaker at National and International meetings, and his talks are often the high point of conferences. He has been interested in birds since boyhood,…

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Carla J. Dove – Bird-Aircraft Strike Hazards

October 5, 2009

Dr. Carla Dove is a Research Scientist in the Department of Ornithology at the National Museum of Natural History. Her expertise is in the field of microscopic and molecular identification of feathers. She applies forensic methodologies to determine species of birds from fragmentary evidence using microscopy, whole feather comparisons with museum specimens and DNA barcoding.…

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Navjot S. Sodhi – Southeast Asian Forest Birds: Losses, Threats and Conservation

June 1, 2009

Field problem presented: Glenn d’Entremont – Lack of Documentation, Quincy Christmas Count records Dr. Navjot S. Sodhi is currently a Professor of Conservation Ecology at the National University of Singapore. He received his PhD from the University of Saskatchewan. He has been studying the effects of rain forest loss and degradation on Southeast Asian fauna…

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François Vuilleumier – Ernst Mayr, Scientist and Mentor: Does One Live Up to Genius?

May 4, 2009

Field problem presented: David Small – Birds and Powerline Management in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont Francois Vuilleumier, acclaimed ornithologist and editor-in-chief of the new book Birds of North America, is Curator Emeritus of the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History. Author and professor of ornithology Francois Vuilleumier was a student of Ernst…

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Nick Locke – REGUA—Reserva Ecológica Guapiaçu: A successful conservation project in the Atlantic rainforest of SE Brazil

April 6, 2009

Field problem presented: Kim Smith – Breeding Ecology of Early Successional Birds in Western Connecticut Nicholas Locke is president of the Guapiaçu Ecological Reserve (REGUA), located an hour and a half from the city of Rio de Janeiro. REGUA, a grassroots NGO, started in 1996 after a visit by a UK naturalist who saw the…

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Nicholas Rodenhouse – Effects of Climate Change on Migratory Birds

February 2, 2009

Field problem presented: Soheil Zendeh – Take a Second Look (TASL) Nicholas Rodenhouse is Professor of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College where he teaches ecology, organismal biology, conservation biology, and environmental studies. A member of the Wellesley College faculty since 1988, Professor Rodenhouse received a A.B. degree from Hope College in 1977 and an M.A. degree…

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Luis Segura – Argentina: 1000 Birds, and More

December 1, 2008

Field problem presented: Steve Mirick- Extreme Pelagic Birding Luis Segura has worked in ecotourism and conservation since 1982. He has volunteered in projects oriented to preserve natural ecosystems and wildlife species in his native country, Argentina. He is a member of the Argentine branch of Birdlife International, Asociación Ornitológica del Plata. In his home city, Puerto…

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Stephanie Koch – Shorebirds and People: Studying Seasonal Mudflat use at Monomoy NWR

November 3, 2008

Field problem presented: Vern Laux – Birdquest Stephanie Koch is working towards her PhD by doing research on shorebirds and these days she is soaring in rarified air because she is the only URI student to be awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. In fact Dr. Peter Paton, chair of the CELS…

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Pamela Rasmussen – History and Mystery: Reevaluating Avian Diversity in South Asia

October 6, 2008

Field problem presented: Robert Kennedy – Nantucket Offshore Wintering Wildfowl: Possible Impacts from Offshore Sand Mining Dr. Pamela Rasmussen’s research focuses on the diversity, vocalizations, taxonomy, and conservation of the avifauna of southern Asia. She recently (2005) co-authored a two-volume book, Birds of South Asia: the Ripley Guide, published in April 2005. She has also worked…

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John Kricher – Speciation in Neotropical Passerines

June 2, 2008

Field problem presented: Michael Schindlinger – Listening to the Amazon Dr. John Kricher is professor of biology at Wheaton College where he has served on the faculty for nearly forty years. He received his B.A. from Temple University and his PhD from Rutgers. In addition to Nuttall, he is a member of a number of professional…

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Rob Williams – Avian Endemism in Peru

May 5, 2008

Field problem presented: Paul Roberts – Population studies of American Kestrel Rob Williams did his undergraduate work in zoology at the University of Wales in Cardiff. He obtained his doctorate at the University of East Anglia where he studied Long-eared Owls. In 1999 he moved to Ecuador where he has worked with a number of conservation…

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William E. (Ted) Davis – Tasmania: A Study in Evolution

April 7, 2008

Field problem presented: Ralph Andrews – Is the Canada Goose Canadian? Dr. William E. (Ted) Davis received his B.A. from Amherst University, his M.A. from the University of Texas and his PhD in invertebrate biology from Boston University. He developed a deep interest in birds and has over the years authored over 150 papers and notes…

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Edwin Scholes III – Courtship, evolution, and natural history of New Guinea’s Birds of Paradise

March 3, 2008

Field problem presented: David Larson – Training naturalist guides Ed Scholes III has been researching birds of paradise in New Guinea since 1999 when he made his first trip to Papua New Guinea, and he has returned for fieldwork each year since. Ed’s research interests are primarily on the evolution of the spectacular morphological and behavioral…

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Hiroyoshi “Hito” Higuchi – Ecology of bird migration in East Asia

February 4, 2008

Field problem presented: Wayne Petersen – Slaty-backed Gull: The next Lesser Black-backed Gull? Prof. Hiroyoshi “Hito” Higuchi is professor of conservation biology and ornithology at the Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Tokyo; former president and Director of Research of the Ornithological Society of Japan; and chair of the Asian Section…

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Kim Bostwick – Evolution of wing sounds in the Manakins (Pipridae)

December 3, 2007

Field problem presented: David Donsker – What’s in a name? Dr. Kimberly S. Bostwick is Curator of Birds and Mammals at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates and a Research Associate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University in New York.

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