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Major migration of bird experts flock to Vancouver

North America's leading avian experts will gather in Vancouver next week to share the recent research findings on all aspects of bird biology and conservation.

It's the first time the North American Ornithological Conference has been held in Canada, and the conference comes in the wake of sweeping reports indicating that some of Canada's bird populations are in steep decline.

"We can manage habitat for Purple Martins breeding on Vancouver Island, but during the winter they are dependent on the savannahs of Brazil and Bolivia," says Kathy Martin, UBC professor and conference chair. "To preserve whole communities of birds, cooperation across societies and the exchange of ideas between scientists and practitioners is critical. This is exactly what this conference achieves."

The Conference will bring together 1,500 participants from 25 countries for four days at the University of British Columbia Vancouver Campus. Researchers will present topics ranging from migration patterns, to avian personalities, diseases, urban birds, vocal communication, mating habits, and the impact of wind-farms on birds.

Researchers at the meeting will also be unveiling a complete 'tree of life' for birds. Similar to a family tree, biologists will for the first time be able to visualize the evolutionary relationships among all 10,000 species of living birds.

The conference opens with a public lecture by Bridget Stutchbury of York University on August 13, 7pm at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Stutchbury's research uses the latest in tracking technology -- tiny light sensors that record a daily diary of sunrise and sunset times. Information retrieved from the tags is giving researchers new insights into the location and timing of migration routes and wintering grounds.


"Frequent Fliers: Tracking Songbird Migration through the Americas". Public lecture, 13 Aug., 7:00 pm, Frederick Wood Theatre. Bridget Stutchbury, York U.,
Each fall, billions of songbirds leave Canada on an epic journey to their far-away wintering grounds in tropical Central and South America. Using cutting edge technology such as geolocators and stable isotopes, scientists are now able to track intercontinental migration of small birds to understand where they go and how their movements respond to the changing climate.

"Constructing and dating the evolutionary tree of all birds". 13 Aug., 1:30 pm, Hennings 200. Jeff Joy, Simon Fraser U.,
An international team will present for the first time a visualization of the family tree among every single species of bird in the world (~10,000 species), forming the foundation of many future comparative, evolutionary, and ecological studies in avian biology.

Impacts of off-shore wind-farms on birds. Symposium 15 Aug., 1:30-3:00 pm, Hennings 202. Scott McWilliams, U. Rhode Island,
Off-shore wind farms have proliferated in Europe over the past decade and a number of large-scale projects are in the final stages of approval in the USA. Leading scientists from Europe and North America will discuss the impacts of these facilities on birds.

"Status of Gavia: conservation in black and white". Workshop 14 Aug., 1:00-4:00 pm, Buchanan B213. James Paruk & Jay Mager, Ohio Northern U.,
A Canadian icon, loons occupy a place high on the food chain and act as sentinels of the environmental health of our lakes. Leading scientists and management groups will identify the most significant threats to loon populations and the most effective tools that will be needed to conserve, manage and restore them.

"Avian disease ecology: from the individual to the landscape". Symposium 18 Aug., 1:30-3:00 pm, Hennings 201. Jen Owen, Michigan State U,
In the last century, there has been an unprecedented increase in emerging infectious diseases which pose significant risks to animal and human populations, and wild birds are considered among the leading disease hosts. To accurately predict the occurrence and spread of bird-borne pathogens, researchers are explicitly linking processes that occur at the scale of individuals to those that occur in communities and over landscapes.

Bird personalities. 18 Aug., 2:00 pm, Hennings 200. Rene Duckworth, U. Arizona,
The idea of individualized medicine is becoming increasingly popular, reflecting the fact that "one size does NOT fit all" when it comes to how the human body works. The same idea of the importance of individual variation is currently being applied to bird physiology. Dr. Duckworth will consider the value of applying ideas of "personalities" to birds in thinking about individual variation.

"Conservation data tools from large-scale citizen science programs", 17-18 Aug., Poster session 2, 5 -7 pm. Peter Davidson, Birds Studies Canada,
The Canadian public - skilled citizen scientists - were a major contributor to the recently-released State of Canada's Birds. Davidson will discuss how public participation programs can be used to detect large-scale trends in the status of Canada's birds, and help focus conservation research and management efforts where they are most needed.


Images for media use related to NAOC Vancouver talks can be downloaded from


Contact: Alice Boyle
North American Ornithological Conference

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