Upcoming Programs

We are pleased to announce that Nuttall monthly meetings will resume in person at Harvard starting in October. Further details will be provided as they become available.

Bridget Stutchbury - Why Is Tropical Bird Behavior So Different?

October 3, 2022

Professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto

Dr. Bridget Stutchbury explores why the tropics is a unique natural laboratory that has led to unusual and varied bird behavior compared with temperate-breeding species. A large majority of research on bird behavior has focussed on North American and European breeding birds, largely out of convenience. Over the past few decades, research on tropical birds has surged because so many species are highly threatened. It is a race against time to understand the many evolutionary quirks of tropical birds including year-round and stable territories, equal sex roles in parenting, females who sing and are brightly colored & aggressive, and males who dance together to attract females. We also are beginning to understand how behavior helps or hinders tropical birds when their forests are fragmented and their climate changes.

Bridget Stutchbury is a Professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto. She did her M.Sc. at Queen’s University, her Ph.D. at Yale and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Since the 1980s, she has studied songbirds to understand their behavior, ecology and conservation but has also witnessed first-hand the shocking declines of many species such as tree swallows, bobolinks, and wood thrushes. Dr. Stutchbury has studied the behavior of tropical birds in Panama and the incredible migration journeys of North American songbirds who winter in the tropics. She is author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007) and The Private Lives of Birds (2010) and was featured in the The Messenger, an award-winning 2015 documentary on songbird declines. Her most recent book Behavioural Ecology of Tropical Birds 2nd edition (2022) was written for an academic audience, but every naturalist will delight in new discoveries.

 

Pete Marra - The Epic Migrations of Birds

November 7, 2022

Director of the Earth Commons: Georgetown University’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Laudato Si’ Professor in Biology and the Environment, and Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy

Migration is one of the most engaging phenomena of the animal world and one epitomized by birds. Migratory birds are the Olympiads of the natural world - traveling extreme distances, flying at night in flocks of tens of thousands of individuals, and moving through treacherous terrain with untold obstacles threatening their every move. Today, over 50% of North America’s migratory species are declining at unprecedented rates – and for most of these species we don’t know why.
Marra will take us on a hemispheric journey to discover the unknown migrations of the birds, explaining the latest technologies used for tracking and why it’s up to us to uncover the secrets of their biology to protect these marvelous species.

Pete Marra earned a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College in 1998 and an M.S. from Louisiana State University in 1989 and is Director of the Earth Commons: Georgetown University’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Laudato Si’ Professor in Biology and the Environment, and Professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy. Marra recently moved to Georgetown University after a 20-year career at the Smithsonian Institution, most recently as Director of the Migratory Bird Center. Marra uses birds to help us define and understand broad environmental issues, tackling contemporary conservation challenges by addressing fundamental knowledge gaps at the intersection of ornithology, ecology and conservation biology. His transformative work—including quantifying the loss of 3 billion birds from North America, the impacts of climate change, the astounding ecological destruction of outdoor cats and emerging diseases such as West Nile virus—explores the interaction between humans and our environment and poses critical questions to humanity about the environmental costs of urbanization and globalization. His work spans biology, engineering, physiology, and biogeochemistry, and has helped ignite new research into the study of full life cycles of migratory animals while furthering technological advances, including the use of genetics, stable isotopes and remote tracking technologies. With over 250 peer-reviewed papers, Marra uses integrative techniques and rigorous quantitative approaches, leveraging data to link fundamental ecological advances to address conservation problems and reimagine approaches that inform policy. Over 55 current and former students and his position as founding director of the Earth Commons, demonstrate Marra’s dedication to moving research to implementation and educating the next generation of diverse scientists.

 

 

Kristin Ruegg - The Bird Genoscape Project: Harnessing the power of genomics for migratory bird conservation

December 5, 2022

Assistant Professor at Colorado State University

Most populations of migratory birds are now threatened. It is estimated that the populations of 1 out of every 2 songbirds are declining in the Western Hemisphere with impacts predicted to worsen with climate change. However, because migratory birds have both breeding, migratory and wintering areas and may move vast distances between them, understanding where the steepest population declines are occurring has been difficult or impossible. In my presentation, I will describe our work to address this critical issue as part of The Bird Genoscape Project – an effort to bring together scientists from across the Western Hemisphere to map the migratory routes of migratory songbirds across the Western Hemisphere using genomics.

Kristen Ruegg is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University whose research focuses on the development of innovative genetic-based tools to conserve migratory birds in the face of climate change and other stressors. Ruegg is also the co-founder and co-director of the Bird Genoscape Project whose main goals are: 1) to create comprehensive, visually impactful, migratory flyway maps for birds that can be used to motivate conservation efforts across geographic and political boundaries, and 2) to map the potential for bird populations to adapt to climate change. Ruegg’s presentation will focus on the use of data from the Bird Genoscape Project to understand the process of natural selection across the annual cycle. When not overseeing research as part of the Bird Genoscape Project, Ruegg can be found working to bridge partnerships between academia, NGO’s and governmental agencies across the US, Canada and Latin America in order to translate the science of the Bird Genoscape Project into conservation action.

 

Steven C. Latta - No Fool’s Errand: A Search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana

January 2, 2023

Director of Conservation and Field Research, National Aviary in Pittsburgh

The history of decline of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is long, complex, and controversial. The last widely accepted sighting of this species in continental North America was 1944. A collaboration between Project Principalis and the National Aviary has produced personal observations, sound recordings, trail camera photos, and drone videos suggesting the consistent presence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers at our study site in Louisiana. Data indicate repeated re-use of foraging sites and core habitat. I will present some of these data, offer insights into behaviors of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker that contribute to difficulty in finding this species, and discuss some promising avenues for future research.

Steven C. Latta is Director of Conservation and Field Research at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. A native of Northern Michigan, he was educated at Kalamazoo College, the University of Michigan, and University of Missouri. After serving for 4 years as Director of the Latin American Program at Point Reyes Bird Observatory, he came to the National Aviary in 2006. Latta works extensively on Hispaniola, and across the Caribbean islands and Latin America, where his research has focused on understanding how migrant and resident species respond to natural and anthropogenic changes to habitat. He has used the Louisiana Waterthrush as a model species to study population dynamics and carry-over effects on both the temperate breeding and Neotropical over-wintering grounds. He is also using this species to understand the impact on birds of important water quality management issues including acid mine drainage and the use of hydraulic fracturing to access natural gas deposits. In 2019, he began a collaboration with Project Principalis in a search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana.

Past Programs

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

Bridget Stutchbury – Why Is Tropical Bird Behavior So Different?

October 3, 2022

Bridget Stutchbury is Professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto Dr. Bridget Stutchbury explores why the tropics is a unique natural laboratory that has led to unusual and varied bird behavior compared with temperate-breeding species. A large majority of research on bird behavior has focussed on North American and European breeding birds,…

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Lauryn Benedict – Divas in the treetops: When and why do female birds sing?

June 6, 2022

Lauryn Benedict is 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…

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Allan Strong: The Bobolink Project: Payments for Ecosystem Services to Conserve Grassland Birds

May 2, 2022

Dr. Allan Strong is a Professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. In response to continent-wide population declines in the suite of birds that nest in agricultural habitats, we initiated a payment for ecosystem services program called The Bobolink Project. Beginning in Rhode Island and expanding to…

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Tim Birkhead – How we know what we know about birds

April 4, 2022

Tim Birkhead is a 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…

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Autumn-Lynn Harrison – Uniting across hemispheres to discover unknown migratory pathways of birds: Advancing scientific knowledge and translating to conservation

March 7, 2022

Dr. Autumn-Lynn Harrison is a research ecologist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and is the 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…

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Daniel Field – The Dinosaur Resurrection: How the Demise of the Dinosaurs Paved the Way for the Origin of Modern Birds

February 8, 2022

Daniel Field is a lecturer in the Earth Sciences Department at Cambridge, and the 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…

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Barbara Vickery and Scott Weidensaul – Birds of Maine: A Life’s Legacy

January 3, 2022

Barbara Vickery and Scott Weidensaul co-edited Birds of Maine Written by the late Peter Vickery in cooperation with a distinguished team of co-authors and editors, the recently published Birds of Maine is the first comprehensive overview of Maine’s rich birdlife in 70 years. Peter, elected to NOC in 1984, spent much of his career focusing…

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Jonathan Slaght – Owls of the Eastern Ice: Blakiston’s Fish Owl Conservation in Russia

December 6, 2021

Jonathan Slaght is the Russia & Northeast Asia Coordinator for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) From 2006-2010, Jonathan Slaght studied Blakiston’s fish owls in Russia for his PhD degree in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Minnesota. These enormous and endangered salmon-eaters live in some of the hardest-to-reach corners of northeast Asia, on…

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Mary Caswell Stoddard – Colorful birds, exquisite eggshells, and other avian adventures

November 1, 2021

Mary Caswell Stoddard (Cassie) is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University Birds evolved about 150 million years ago, and today they are the most diverse and colorful land vertebrates. In my group, we are fascinated by the ecological and evolutionary processes that contribute to avian diversity. In…

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Sarah Knutie – Finch in a pinch: effects of environmental change on endemic birds in the Galapagos Islands

October 4, 2021

Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Faculty Affiliate University of Connecticut Institute for Systems Geonomics The overarching theme of the Knutie Lab is to understand how birds defend themselves against disease-causing parasites, particularly in response to environmental change. Her talk will take us to the Galapagos Islands, where she uses experimental field studies…

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Gail Patricelli – Robots, Telemetry, and the Sex Lives of Wild Birds using technology to study and protect an enigmatic bird

June 7, 2021

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…

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Jennie Duberstein – Working across borders to conserve birds and habitats in the southwest US and northwest Mexico

May 3, 2021

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…

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Gabrielle Nevitt – Following the scent of avian olfaction

April 5, 2021

Professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior at UC Davis When John James Audubon proclaimed that birds lacked a sense of smell, the study of avian olfaction was doomed to suffer ridicule by ornithology text books for years to come. In recent years, ornithologists have renewed their interest into the sense of smell…

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Tomas Carlo – Effects of avian frugivory in the structure and resilience of plant communities

March 1, 2021

Associate Professor of Biology & Ecology at Penn State University and associate researcher in the ecology department at the Museo de Historia Natural of the San Marcos National University in Lima, Peru Migratory bird populations are undergoing rapid changes at present. Shifts in the timing of migration and breeding, and in range and abundance, are…

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Jennifer Gill – Space, time and bird migration: shifting systems in a changing world

February 1, 2021

Professor of Applied Ecology at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK Migratory bird populations are undergoing rapid changes at present. Shifts in the timing of migration and breeding, and in range and abundance, are being reported in migratory systems across the globe. However, how and why these changes are happening remains unclear.…

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Pat Jodice – Searching Sea and Land for the Little Devil: The Ecology and Conservation of the Black-capped Petrel

January 4, 2021

Leader, U.S. Geological Survey South Carolina Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit and Professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation at Clemson University The Black-capped Petrel or Diablotin, Pterodroma hasitata, is an endangered seabird endemic to the western North Atlantic. Once thought extinct it was rediscovered in 1963 when nests were located in…

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Dan Lewis – Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds

December 7, 2020

Associate Research Professor of History of Claremont Graduate University and Dibner Senior Curator for the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens Robert Ridgway, the Smithsonian’s first Curator of Birds, was one of the world’s top ornithologists, systematists and bird artists, impactful in a wide variety of ways…

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Morgan Tingley – The Journey of Birds Across Space and Time

November 2, 2020

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…

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Tim Low – Australia’s Birds Have Populated the World

October 5, 2020

America’s warblers, jays and all other songbirds on earth can be traced back to an origin in Australia. Genetic, fossil and anatomical evidence all point to this conclusion, which is now consensus science. As befits their very long residence, songbirds in Australia are exceptionally diverse in behaviours, with bowerbirds collecting plastic, magpies blinding children, choughs…

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Luis M. Chiappe – Birding in the Age of Dinosaurs: Advances in Understanding Early Avian Evolution

March 2, 2020

Senior Vice President, Research & Collections Gretchen Augustyn Director, Dinosaur Institute Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County A tremendous amount of new fossils of early birds from the Age of the Dinosaurs has been unearthed in the last few decades. In his lecture, Dr. Chiappe will review the many new discoveries related to the…

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