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)

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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Margaret Rubega – The Functional Biology of Red-necked Phalaropes

October 7, 2002
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Arturo Kirkconnell – Birds of Cuba

June 3, 2002
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