Honors Research Presented Nationally – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Honors Research Presented Nationally

Bob Taylor ’11 and Associate Professor of Biology Mark Deutschlander recently attended a combined annual meeting for the Wilson Ornithological Society, The Association of Field Ornithologists, and the Cooper Ornithological Society.  Taylor presented his honors research on irruptive migrations in black-capped Chickadees at the conference.

More than 500 participants from all over the country attended the conference, and the three participating societies regionally represent the entire country.

“It was a great networking opportunity,” Deutschlander explains. Talks took place over the course of three days, with 90 posters on display as well. “It was definitely an interesting experience to actually meet professionals in the field that I want to enter, and to be able to present my own research to them,” says Taylor.

Taylor developed an interest in birds from his First Year Seminar with Deutschlander, and this interest solidified when he participated in the Project Puffin Internship. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for him to get more skills,” remarks Deutschlander. Taylor also did a training program at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory on the south shore of Lake Ontario. At Braddock Bay, Taylor learned how to band birds after measuring them for weight, length, age, sex and species. The bands issued by U. S. Geological Society (USGS) aid in monitoring migration specifically. Banding data goes to USGS and they keep track of every bird that’s banded and birds that are reencountered. Then, that data can be used to look at directionality and distance of their movements.

After his work at Braddock Bay, Taylor became curious about Chickadee migration. “Chickadees don’t usually migrate. Every so often the seed populations crash, so they move south in large numbers,” adds Deutschlander.  In a normal year, it is possible to encounter about 100 Chickadees at Braddock Bay, but in an irruption year, researchers may see more than 1,000. For his project, Taylor used the Braddock Bay data set collected by volunteers and researchers like Deutschlander.

“I especially enjoyed the independent nature of the work,” Taylor says. “I like figuring things out on my own, and a lot of the project involved teaching myself new techniques and methods, which was a challenge that I really enjoyed.”

Taylor’s project hinges on the hypothesis that since Chickadees are responding to a food shortage, they would be leaner instead of experiencing the usual weight gain of birds before migration. “The cool thing about Bob’s project is it used three data sets that are very different,” Deutschlander explains. Taylor used research from Braddock Bay, Cornell’s Project Feederwatch as well as recapture data from the USGS.

Also at the conference was Maggi Sliwinski ’07. A former student of Deutschlander’s, Sliwinski is working on a master’s degree at the University of Manitoba, studying the effects of cattle stocking and grazing on songbirds that inhabit mixed-grass prairie.

Deutschlander serves on the Board of Directors at Braddock Bay and is a council member of the Wilson Ornithological Society.


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