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Upcoming Programs

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)

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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John O’Neill – Recipe for peparing a guide to one of the largest avifaunas in the world: The case for Peru

November 5, 2007

Field problem presented: Tom French – Peregrine Falcon recovery in NY and NE Dr John P. O’Neill is research associate at the Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science. He is the discoverer of more bird species (13) new to science than any other living person. He is also a wildlife painter and coauthor of the…

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Ian Nisbet – From eggs to senescence: Long-term studies of Common Terns

October 1, 2007

Field problem presented: Peter Alden – Central and South American bird field guides Ian Nisbet, NOC member since 1975, is an independent tern researcher who has been the primary monitor for the Roseate Tern and Common Tern colonies in Buzzard’s Bay, particularly at Bird Island. Dr Nisbet was born in the UK and received his PhD…

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Richard O. Prum – The evolution of feathers

June 4, 2007

Field problem presented: Brian Cassie – Does Massachusetts end? Professor Richard Prum, Curator of Ornithology in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, is an evolutionary ornithologist with broad interests in diverse topics, including phylogenetics, behavior, feathers, structural color, evolution and development, sexual selection, and historical biogeography. His recent research…

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Peter Vickery – Grasslands of the Americas

May 7, 2007

Field problem presented: Ron Lockwood – Grasshopper Sparrow demographics at Fort Devens After working for Massachusetts Audubon, Peter Vickery founded the Center for Ecological Research, a non-profit organization in Maine. It is devoted to conservation and ecological research. He is also on the faculties of University of Massachusetts and University of Maine. Peter did his PhD…

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Herb Raffaele – Saving Caribbean birds

April 2, 2007

Field problem presented: Ted Davis – Reporting bird behavior Dr. Herb Raffaele, Chief of the International Division of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, received his degrees in wildlife conservation and ecology from the State University of New York in 1983. He has published often on wildlife conservation and is responsible for the creation of education…

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H. Doug Pratt – Hawaiian honeycreepers

March 5, 2007

Field problem presented: Jim Berry – Nesting birds H. Doug Pratt is currently research curator at North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences. He received his PhD in biology at LSU in 1969. He began studying Hawaiian honeycreepers 30 years ago and has expanded his research into endemic birds of Pacific Ocean islands.

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Tim Laman – Birds of paradise

February 5, 2007

Field problem presented: Wayne Petersen – We can’t be too careful Tim Laman has been working in New Guinea, collaborating with Edwin Scolz. Tim received his PhD in evolutionary biology at Harvard in 1994. He began working in Borneo and became a regular contributor to National Geographic. The work presented was a preview of an article…

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Dick Veit – Vagrancy

December 4, 2006

Field problem presented: Ian Nisbet – Roseate Terns Dick Veit received his undergraduate degree in biology at UMass Boston and his graduate degree at University of California at Irvine. He is currently professor of biology at College of Staten Island. He has published 44 publications and 1 book (Birds of Massachusetts with Wayne Petersen), mentors 14…

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Simon Perkins – Cape Wind

November 6, 2006

Simon Perkins is field ornithologist with Massachusetts Audubon Society. He began researching Cape Wind and its proposed wind turbines in Nantucket Sound approximately 4 years ago and presented the up-to-the minute results of his research to the Club.

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Reuven Yosef – Eilat

October 2, 2006

Reuven Yosef has worked at the Raptor Research Center in Eilat, Israel, since 1984 and has been the director since 1993. He received his PhD at Ohio State University and conducted his post-doc work on shrikes at Florida’s Archibald Research Center. He has been involved in developing educational programs on raptors, primarily in the Old…

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Dr. John Kricher: The influence of the Galapagos Islands on evolutionary thinking

December 2, 2002

The influence of the Galapagos Islands on evolutionary thinking. https://vimeo.com/198576752

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