A new paper that I was involved with was just published in the journal Western Birds, titled “The structure of Lark Sparrow song in California”. The paper was a collaborative effort with Ed Pandolfino. This was a rather out-of-the-blue collaboration – Ed and I had emailed back and forth about Plumbeous/Cassin’s Vireo song a few times. Then, as he started examining Lark Sparrow song, he figured my analytical skill set would be useful as he started writing a paper on that species. I happily obliged, things went smoothly thereafter, and now the paper’s out! Click here to have a look at the paper or read on for a brief summary.
As of April 1, I’m back at work after three months off. Canada allows 1 year of paid parental leave, divided flexibly between the two parents as long as your employment qualifies. I decided to take the last three months, while my wife took the first nine.
Those three months have come to an end. I had a great time with my daughter, with highlights including a trip to the west coast and a trip to visit a friend in Florida! I also got to experience the life of a stay-at-home parent. Never again will I say “parental leave is a great time for [writing grants, writing papers, doing science]”.
Now, back to work.
I was happy to be invited by Tiago Marques to present at the Acoustical Society of America conference in November. This was my first “acoustics” conference, so it was nice to finally branch out from birds and behaviour, and see talks about acoustics more generally.
Full disclosure, though, I still talked about birds. My talk was entitled “Sound localization for estimating population densities of birds: progress, challenges and opportunities”. In short, I highlighted that sound localization has seldom, if at all, been used to estimate the population density of birds. It is well-suited to this task, however, because sound recorders allow researchers to simultaneously and completely sample an area of arbitrary size for all singing birds. This removes/minimizes many of the nuisance variables associated with population density estimation (e.g. time-of-day, time-of-season, bird movement). It also allows much more precise estimation of habitat use at fine spatial scales, compared to rather coarse-scale sampling methods in current use.
The main problem is cost: hardware expenses alone might cost $100,000 to cover an area the size of three football fields. Covering smaller areas is cheaper and useful for many research questions, but if the goal is density estimation, “edge-effects” lead to many of the same problems as other survey methods. Hopefully, as sound localization sees broader adoption, these costs come down.
Many thanks to my aunt and uncle, Susan and Ross Holloway, for putting me up in their house for the week! I hope to attend another ASA meeting soon!
I was thrilled to be able to attend and present at the International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver, BC at the end of August. This is a conference that had been circled on my calendar ever since it was first announced a few years ago. It had two key ingredients: first, it was one of the largest ornithological conferences to ever be held, and second, it was in my hometown. Birds and home-cooked meals – what’s not to like?
I delivered not one, but two oral presentations at the conference. Continue reading
This past weekend, I attended the Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society Conference in Lethbridge, Alberta. This was my first time attending a conference focused on something other than birds, and I had a fantastic time. I met lots of interesting people – many from Alberta, some from outside the province. I gave a poster presentation entitled “Localization of bird songs to assess responses to oil well sites”. Continue reading
I recently returned from two trips to Northeastern Alberta to conduct some winter field work. The project is the Master’s project of Bayne lab member Jeremiah Kennedy. The goal is to survey for owls in Alberta’s boreal forest, understand their habitat preferences, and investigate whether small owls avoid or alter their behaviours in response to large owls. Species of interest include Boreal Owls, Great Horned Owls, and Barred Owls, to name a few.
Because owls breed in March and April, we had to put the recording units out in February to ensure we didn’t miss their peak vocal activity – hence the snowmobiles. I spent most of my days snowshoeing to far-off locations in thigh-deep snow: hard work – and my hip flexors gave me some grief – but it was a great experience!
I am thrilled to announce that I will be spending the next two years working in Erin Bayne’s lab at the University of Alberta!
Yesterday, I got the news that my proposal for a Mitacs Accelerate grant was approved. The proposal has two primary aims: 1) to improve sound localization technology (see my previous post on the topic here); and 2) to use this technology to assess the impacts of human alterations to habitat (e.g. energy industry activity) on bird behavior and ecology. Looking forward to getting started!
The 2017 field season is in the books. I had a very busy season, both personally and professionally: I spent several weeks in the field, moved from Calfornia to Canada, and got married. I’ll recount some of the highlights below. Continue reading
My colleagues and I have a new paper out in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology called “Direction-of-arrival estimation of animal vocalizations for monitoring animal behaviour and improving estimates of abundance”. The paper presents the results of a test of a sound localization system made from two Wildlife Acoustics Songmeter SM3 devices, configured so that an algorithm can tell a user the precise direction towards a sound source. Click here to download the paper.
I’ve been birding on the UCLA campus – often with friends, often by myself – since I arrived here to start my PhD in 2012. Quality bird habitat on campus is fairly patchily distributed these days. There’s the Mildred E. Mathias botanical garden, which hosts the highest diversity of birds; there’s Sage hill, which is the most natural chunk of chaparral remaining on campus; and there are bits and pieces of shrubbery and trees scattered elsewhere.
But of course, it wasn’t always this way. The campus, at its inception in 1926, was mostly a patchwork of fields, oaks, chaparral and arroyos. The bird community it hosted included about a dozen species that are currently absent from campus: species like the Greater Roadrunner, California Quail, California Thrasher, and Burrowing Owls. How do I know this? Because an early professor at the campus, Dr. Loye Miller, wrote a book about the birds of campus, a book that now serves as an invaluable record of the early campus avifauna.
My friends and I have now updated Dr. Miller’s observations, by surveying the birds of campus over the past year and a half. The results of our surveys, which documented numerous conspicuous changes to the campus avifauna, have now been published in the Western Tanager, the publication of the Los Angeles Audubon Society. You can find the article here. Continue reading