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scott weidensaul- Writer and researcher

Messing Around with Birds (for Fun and Science)

Writer and researcher Scott Weidensaul will discuss how he went from being a birding geek to a writer and field researcher, starting as a hawk-bander in the 1980s to his work today with revolutionary telemetry technology — tracking Snowy Owls to their Arctic breeding grounds, using geolocators to study songbird migration in Alaska and saw-whet owls in the East, and helping to build one of the largest arrays of automated receiver stations in the ground-breaking Motus Wildlife Tracking System.

Who is Scott? A bird bander for more than 30 years, Scott Weidensaul maintains an active field research schedule, with much of his work now focusing on the ecology and movements of the Northern Saw-Whet Owl. He directs the Saw-Whet Owl research program for the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, and co-directs Project Owlnet, a collaborative effort by more than 125 independent owl research facilities in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.  

In 2013, Weidensaul helped found Project SNOWstorm, a highly collaborative effort by researchers, banders, wildlife pathologists, and veterinarians to better understand the periodic irruptions of Snowy Owls into southern Canada and the U.S., and the winter ecology of these immense raptors.  It has quickly grown into one of the largest and most ambitious Snowy Owl research programs in the world.

Scott is one of fewer than 200 federally-licensed hummingbird banders in North America.  A major research interest of his is the rapidly growing number of western hummingbirds now appearing each fall and winter in the East. He is also a founder of the Critical Connections project, which is using next-generation tracking technology to study the migration of birds on national parklands in Alaska.  Scott also helps direct the Northeast Motus Collaboration, which uses nanotag technology to track movements of very small migratory animals.

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claire wayner - Undergraduate, Princeton University and YMOS Alumna

Finding Birds in Unexpected Places

Claire will share the omnipresence of birds in our lives, even where we least expect them, and how one doesn't necessarily need to be an ornithologist in order to keep watching and loving birds.

About Claire: Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Claire started birding at the age of 11 and enters her sophomore year at Princeton University this fall studying environmental engineering. An active member of the Youth Maryland Ornithological Society (YMOS) throughout middle and high school, she has competed in the World Series of Birding, volunteered with Lights Out Baltimore to rescue migratory birds from colliding with windows, and led urban bird walks for the Patterson Park Audubon Center. In addition to her service work directly related to birds, she has spearheaded several successful environmental advocacy campaigns, including city- and state-level bans on Styrofoam food packaging in Baltimore and Maryland and a climate change referendum at Princeton.

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patrick newcombe - Student at Sidwell Friends School

A Journey through High School Ornithology: manakins, migration, and conservation

Patrick will share his experiences in ornithology and his journey that led to combining research and conservation, in the field and at home. He mapped manakin leks in Costa Rica and Peru, and he applied weather radar data to reveal migratory strategies on the Pacific Flyway.

About Patrick: Patrick Newcombe is an avid birder and photographer who is passionate about conservation. He has spent time during the past two summers at Osa Conservation’s Piro Biological Station in Costa Rica researching the endangered Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager. He is an active member of YMOS and is the editor of the Montgomery Bird Club’s newsletter. Patrick is a junior at Sidwell Friends School and a Caroline D. Bradley Scholar.

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David Barber - Senior Research Biologist, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Paul Heveran - Biology Major at De Sales University, Volunteer Counter Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Presentation: Satellite Tracking and eBird Are Changing What We Know About Wintering Broad-winged Hawks

About David: David Barber (top photo) is the Sanctuary's Senior Research Biologist and GIS manager.  His research focuses on the movement ecology of short- and long-distance migrants where he uses satellite telemetry to track movements of Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged Hawks and Striated Caracaras.   He also conducts stewardship and monitoring programs and can be found out and about, working to complete the Sanctuary's breeding bird, butterfly, and other annual surveys.

About Paul: Paul Heveran began volunteering at Hawk Mountain in 2015 as a junior counter, became an official counter in 2018 and has assisted researchers with kestrel nestbox monitoring. He is a talented birder and leads walks at Peace Valley Nature Center.  Paul's career goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in bird migration research, especially involving radar, citizen science, and tracking devices.


Bracken Brown - Naturalist, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Presentation: M.O.V.E. - Make Opportunities, Volunteer Everywhere

Bracken will share techniques to assist the aspiring field biologist with establishing a personalized niche in the competitive field of seasonal avian work. Learn some avenues to turn temporary jobs into long term collaborations and potential employment.

About Bracken: Bracken’s captivation with wildlife began as a child roaming semi-feral on his family’s farm at the base of Hawk Mountain. From age six to fifteen he spent early summers helping monitor and maintain Hawk Mountain’s kestrel nestbox program. During college, he was offered a summer intern position focused on Hawk Mountain’s New World Vulture project. After graduating from Bryn Athyn college, he completed five years of field work to broaden his horizons in research and conservation needs, as well as build an arsenal of field techniques that can best be understood through hands-on experience.

He has worked as a contract wildlife consultant, endangered species database manager, and shorebird technician for the state of Delaware. His falls were spent working for the Raptor View Research Institute focused on Golden Eagle research, ecology, and banding, including other migrant raptors on the front range. After eagle season, it was back east to finish fall migration as a volunteer counting at Hawk Mountain by day and trapping Northern Saw-Whet Owls by night. He spent the past few years as a high school science teacher at a private school in Kempton, PA, which allowed him to do field work during the summer. This June, Bracken joined the staff at Hawk Mountain as a full-time biologist/naturalist.

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Christina "Kashi" Davis - New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Presentation: Dispatches from the Beachfront

Kashi will introduce you to the roller coaster ride that is endangered species management and protection. She works with beach-nesting birds, which are some of the most imperiled species in New Jersey, and will show you what makes working with these birds so challenging -- but ultimately so satisfying. Hang on to your hats, here we goooooo!

About Kashi: Christina "Kashi" Davis thought she knew what love was like....and then she met the Piping Plover. She fell hard and fast and in the nearly two decades since, she has dedicated her professional career to stabilizing and recovering the NJ population of this most "charming little sprite of the sand".  She has her master's degree in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University and is happily ensconced at New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife - Endangered and Nongame Species Program, where she leads projects for beach-nesting bird, secretive marsh bird, colonial waterbird and seabird management and protection. 

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Matthew Halley - Drexel University / Academy of Natural Sciences

Matthew will speak about his field methods using DNA analysis, population genetics, and morphometrics, and how the implementation of cameras, tracking devices combined with these studies are helping us understand species and populations in our current era, and where these may lead us going forward.

About Matthew: Matthew Halley is a scientist and historian from southeastern Pennsylvania, who has authored numerous articles about the evolution and history of American birds and birding. He is best known for his research on the Nightingale-thrushes (genus Catharus), especially his discovery of cooperative breeding in the Veery (C. fuscescens), and for locating and exposing lost artifacts and manuscripts that have reshaped the public understanding of ornithological history. Halley lives in Philadelphia, where he is a PhD candidate at Drexel University, Research Associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and Editor of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC) and its journal Cassinia.


Catherine Hamilton - Amur Falcon Project / Zeiss

Abstract: Catherine will present images and processes to demonstrate how drawing and color can instantly change perception and cement experiences and identifications in the field, even with the simplest and crudest sketches and color notes. 

About Catherine: Catherine Hamilton grew up exploring the mountains and deserts of Southern California, and as pretty much born with a pencil in hand. She began birding at an early age with her father, developing a keen interest in both natural history and art, and started her first ornithological notebook at seven. Somewhat mysteriously, her parents encouraged her to continue this behavior, and she still does pretty much the same things today.

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Christopher M. Heckscher, Ph.D. - delaware State university

Presentation: Miniature GPS data loggers reveal the precise wintering habitat of Delaware Veeries in the southern Amazon basin

Abstract: Christopher “Kitt” Heckscher used miniature GPS data loggers to track Veeries from northern Delaware to southern Brazil.  The GPS loggers have an average resolution of just 10m even from within dense rainforest. The data loggers revealed – for the first time – the habitat used by Veeries on their wintering grounds in remote regions of South America.

About Kitt: Graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology.  Received an MS and PhD from University of Delaware in Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. Currently, an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Ecology at Delaware State University.  Kitt has been studying a population of Veery at White Clay Creek State Park in northern Delaware since 1998 (21 years). His first experience birding was at age five.

Marshall Iliff - Cornell Lab oF ornithology/eBird

eBird has become an essential resource for birdwatchers, scientists, and conservationists who tap into its free data visualizations and free data downloads. The database now tops 650 million bird observations, representing almost 99% of bird species from every country on Earth. Translated into almost 30 languages, eBird is spanning cultural and linguistic barriers to unite birders worldwide towards a common cause. As eBird looks towards the future, the Macaulay Library is providing rich media resources to combine with eBird's biogeographic information to re-envision the modern field guide via the Merlin app and drive innovation in image recognition.

About Marshall: Marshall is a lifelong nature lover who grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. After college he worked as a field technician and led professional birdwatching tours around the globe before joining the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to work on eBird in 2007. Within the eBird team Marshall is a Project Leader who wears many hats, but has a particular focus on data quality and taxonomy.


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Andy Johnson - Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Associate Producer, Multimedia Productions

Presentation: Conservation Media: telling stories to create impact

Andy will share stories and experiences from film projects around the world, as part of a small team working to find avenues for science to influence conservation. Whether focused on a single community or critically endangered species, or an entire ecosystem in peril, the challenge is the same: what are the decisions and actions that will define progress, and how can we help the key people move in that direction?

About Andy: Andy is an Associate Producer in the Conservation Media team at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. His team works to produce compelling science-based media about birds, their broader environments, and their human connections, in order to reach targeted audiences with a real capacity for conservation impact. Their work includes everything from award-winning feature documentaries, to data visualizations and media kits that contextualize issues for specific decision-makers or communities around the world.
He has been a birder since elementary school, and always wanted to study ornithology at Cornell. After attending the Lab’s first Young Birders Event, Andy ended up doing my undergraduate studies here, focused on shorebird migration. He always assumed he’d be a researcher in academia, but at the Lab Andy found another path into multimedia production, which has become a dream job he never knew was an option. Andy gets to keep one foot in the world of academic ornithology, while focusing on applied, conservation-driven storytelling.


Ashley Kennedy, Ph.D. - postdoctoral research fellow at the U.S. Army Public Health Center 

Presentation: How we discovered what birds eat and why we needed to know

Ashley will share her research on the insects and other arthropods that are most important as bird food, giving us a glimpse into birds' diets with stunning photos contributed by community scientists from across North America.

About Ashley: Ashley is a postdoctoral research fellow at the U.S. Army Public Health Center in Aberdeen, Maryland, and a recent graduate of the Entomology and Wildlife Ecology Department at the University of Delaware. As a doctoral student in Doug Tallamy's lab, she studied bird-insect food webs, using Eastern Bluebirds as a focal species. She is a board member of the Delaware Audubon Society and a member of the Delaware Native Species Commission.


Michael Lanzone - Cellular Tracking Technologies, president and owner

Michael will share his journey from a young birder to a research biologist that designed and patented a highly innovative GSM transmitter to the leader of a wildlife telemetry company that works with researchers world-wide, pushing technology to the limit to make dreams a reality.

About Mike: Michael Lanzone is the CEO of Cellular Tracking Technologies, a company that develops high-end animal tracking devices for studies world-wide working including studies like Project SNOWStorm. Over his career he has worked for various state and federal agencies and not-for profit organizations across the country. He was director of the Bioacoustics and Biomonitoring Laboratory at Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Avian Research Center, co-founder of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working group, and was Assistant Coordinator for the 2nd Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas. He has worked on many other research and banding projects across the world and has specialized in technological advancements and applied conservation in ornithology including bioacoustics and Golden Eagle ecology and conservation.


David LaPuma, PH.D. - Director of Global Market Development, Cellular Tracking Technologies

David will share his passion for Radar Ornithology in this engaging talk that spans two decades of watching blips on a screen…and finding the birds on the ground!

About David: David joined Cellular Tracking Technologies (CTT) in 2019 where he now helps clients around the globe design and implement a cutting-edge wildlife tracking infrastructure and deploy the next generation of tracking technology. David comes to CTT after five years as Director of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, where his responsibilities included monitoring migration at one of the world's most important migration concentration points, with long-term research of raptor, waterbird, songbirds and butterfly migration engrained in the DNA of the observatory. Over the last 17 years David has conducted research on endangered species management of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, fire ecology of the Florida Everglades, the use of radar to quantify stopover habitat for migratory birds, and the use of long-term datasets to detect meaningful change in wildlife populations. David’s passion for bird migration, and the emergent technology used to study it, cannot be overemphasized; and if you’ve ever met him or seen him talk, you know how infectious this passion can be.

trish miller - Senior Research Wildlife Biologist and Executive Director, Conservation Science Global

Trish shares the story of her journey from undergraduate to field biologist to PhD and how birds and especially Golden Eagles opened the door to many opportunities.

About Trish: Trish Miller is the Executive Director and Senior Research Wildlife Biologist for Conservation Science Global, a non-profit that conducts research to inform management, conservation, and education of natural resources. Trish has been studying birds for more than 20 years and received her Ph.D. from Penn State studying Golden Eagles in eastern North America.

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Emily Thomas - Instructor in Wildlife Technology, penn State dubois

Emily will share information on beginning a career in ornithology through education. She will discuss choosing a University, what to expect from classes, taking advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom, and considering graduate school.

About Emily: From 2005 through 2015, Emily worked on various projects, including her Master’s research, with the U.S. Forest Service Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Irvine, PA. Her research has focused on the effects of shale gas development on forest birds. She published her Master’s work in the Journal of Wildlife Management. Emily is an Instructor in the Wildlife Technology program at Penn State DuBois. She teaches six courses, advises approximately 30 students, leads the student chapter of The Wildlife Society, and actively mentors students by getting them involved in research and the profession. She was named the DuBois Educational Foundation Educator of the Year for the 2013-2014 academic year and was invited to present the commencement address at Penn State DuBois that fall.

Emily has served as the President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of The Wildlife Society and as a board member of the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. While Emily was a student at the University Park campus, she initiated a bird banding program at the Penn State Arboretum. Since then, Emily has been involved with multiple banding projects, and monitoring projects, especially those studying the effects of Oil and Gas development on songbird communities.


Jim Whatton - Smithsonian Institution Feather Identification Lab, Research Assistant

Presentation: BSI: Bird Strike Identification at the Smithsonian

Jim will share the techniques and challenges of identifying birds involved in bird-aircraft collisions.

About Jim: Jim has worked in the Feather Lab for over ten years, helping to identify over 80,00 birdstrikes.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University and enjoys any time that he gets to spend outdoors.