#GlobalAOS: Hisashi Nagata

This July and August, we’re running a special series of blog posts profiling AOS members around the world, in honor of the recent change to AOS’s bylaws eliminating any reference specifying the Western Hemisphere as the Society’s geographic sphere of influence. This week, meet Hisashi Nagata, a professor in Japan.

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Dr. Nagata observing the behavior of Crested Ibises.

What’s your current affiliation and title?

I am a professor at the Sado Island Center for Ecological Resilience at the Niigata University in Japan and the head of Satoyama division at the center. “Satoyama,” the traditional Japanese agricultural landscape, is important habitat for many creatures including the Crested Ibis. Our center is quite new, just born in April 2019 from the combination of three other facilities.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on a reintroduction program with Crested Ibises. I have been involved with this program since 2007, and the first Crested Ibises were released on Sado Island in 2008. So far 317 ibises have been released, and I collect data on this reintroduced population. In the first six years after reintroduction, breeding success was not sufficient to support the reintroduced population of the ibis, but now the population exceeds 350 birds in the wild and breeding success has improved enough to support population growth. My current interest is determining the carrying capacity for the ibises on Sado Island.

When did join AOS, and why did you decide to join?

I joined the AOU in 1986, when my first paper was accepted in The Auk. The Editor-in-Chief recommended that I join the AOU to reduce the publishing fees. I joined COS around 1991 or 1992, when I got a tenure-track job at the National Institute for Environmental Studies. And I became a lifetime member of the AOU in the mid-1990s, because I realized that would be cheaper than paying the annual fee for 30 or 40 years! When the AOU and COS merged in 2016, I became a life member of AOS.

What’s the best benefit you’ve gained from being an AOS member?

As an AOS member, I can get information on recent ornithological research in the United States. When I was a postgraduate student, I could read only European ornithological journals in my university library. It is important for me to keep up with recent academic developments on the American continent, and being an AOS member helps me do that.

Guest Post: How to Send a Graduate School Inquiry Email

Contributed by Jenn Houtz, co-presenter of the workshop “Crafting an Effective CV/Resume for Careers Inside and Outside Academia” at AOS’s 2019 annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. This is the second in a series of blog posts developed from workshops presented at the meeting.

If you are considering attending graduate school, the quality of your inquiry email to a potential advisor can make or break your chances of a receiving a response. First impressions are everything, and you want to make a good one! This email might serve as the foundation for your graduate research career in your dream lab. Below we provide some useful tips for crafting a professional graduate position inquiry email. Continue reading “Guest Post: How to Send a Graduate School Inquiry Email”

#GlobalAOS: Iliana Medina Guzmán

This July and August, we’re running a special series of blog posts profiling AOS members around the world, in honor of the recent change to AOS’s bylaws eliminating any reference specifying the Western Hemisphere as the Society’s geographic sphere of influence. This week, meet Iliana Medina Guzmán, a postdoctoral researcher in Australia.

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Dr. Medina Guzmán with a screech-owl in her home country of Colombia.

What’s your current affiliation and title?

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

What are you working on right now?

I work with the evolution of color in birds. I also work with brood parasitism from a broad perspective, like comparative analysis, that type of thing. Those are my two most recent interests. I am mostly on the computer — I use databases a lot for my work, because I do analyses on a lot of different species. I spend most of my time reading and looking for information on all of these species.

Recently we are working on how brood parasites target their host species based on territory size — do they target species that live in larger territories or smaller territories. So I go into the literature and try to find information for each species of host and non-host for average territory size, breeding densities, distribution, things like that.

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Dr. Medina Guzmán working on her latest research project.

When did you join AOS, and why did you decide to join?

I just became a member last fall. I decided to join because I read a lot of papers from The Auk and The Condor, because for my comparative analyses I need information on the natural history of lots of different species, and those journals have a lot of that information. I published myself part of my thesis in one of those journals. And being an AOS member also includes access to databases like Birds of North America, which I also use for all of these comparative analyses. So that’s super useful. I thought AOS membership was a really great value for all the benefits that it brings.

I have to confess that I feel a bit like an impostor, because I consider myself an evolutionary biologist that happens to work with birds, not a real ornithologist. I’m more interested in the questions than the actual organisms, but I like birds a lot and I work with birds for most of my questions.

What do you see as the best benefit of being an AOS member?

Definitely the journals and Birds of North America! I haven’t been to any meetings or anything like that, so for me it would be the journals and the access to the databases.

#GlobalAOS: Patience Shito

This July and August, we’re running a special series of blog posts profiling AOS members around the world, in honor of the recent change to AOS’s bylaws eliminating any reference specifying the Western Hemisphere as the Society’s geographic sphere of influence. This week, meet Patience Shito, a master’s degree student in South Africa.

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Patience observing captive hornbills.

What’s your current affiliation and title?

I’m currently a master’s candidate and an intern with the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project, based in South Africa.

What are you working on right now?

For my internship, I do a lot of education and awareness work about the Southern Ground Hornbill. We go out to schools and we do lessons and activities with the children, teaching them about the importance of the bird and why we are concerned about it, because it’s an endangered species in South Africa. We also go out and interact with rural communities and farmers and just the general public, be it at workshops or bird fairs or just gatherings where we’ve been invited to give talks, and we give talks here on the game reserve where we’re based, the Mabula Game Reserve. The Southern Ground-Hornbill is a culturally significant species in most ethnic groups throughout its range in Africa, and we aim to maintain that reverence through all age groups, as it has contributed to the persistence of the species in some areas.

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Patience tracking ground hornbills in the field.

We also do research on the birds. Southern Ground Hornbills are a long-lived species, they live for about fifty years, and the research that’s been done on them hasn’t really covered all of the aspects of their biology and ecology as well as their interactions with humans here in South Africa. For my master’s thesis, I’m looking at the factors that are affecting the distribution of the birds in an area called the Limpopo River Valley, where ground hornbills are recolonizing the region after almost being wiped out in the 1960s and 1970s.

When did you join AOS, and why did you decide to join?

I applied for a Student Membership Award last year and received a year of free AOS membership. I applied because I realized that my knowledge was a bit lacking in terms of current trends in ornithology, and I just wanted to broaden my horizon in terms of what people are doing currently throughout the world. I realized that the American Ornithological Society has members throughout the world and I can possibly link up with them and find out what’s going on in matters pertaining to ornithology. In addition, I wanted to be able to apply for the Student Research Awards and possibly, hopefully, get some funding to complete my master’s studies.

What do you see as the best benefit of being an AOS member?

The best benefit is just opening up my mind to new ideas, from reading articles in the journals, and interacting with fellow ornithologists. It’s easy to be stuck in one track, one way of doing things, but if I can interact with more people, more ornithologists, to learn as much as I can, then I think I can go far in my career in ornithology.

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Patience conducting an outreach program at a local school.

Press Release: Despite Habitat Protection, Endangered Owls Decline in Mount Rainier National Park

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Spotted Owls in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo by Anna Mangan.

When the Northern Spotted Owl was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1990, the primary threat to the species was the loss of the old-growth forest it depends on. However, new research published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that the Northern Spotted Owl population in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park has declined sharply in the past two decades despite the long-term preservation of habitat within the park. The culprit? The spread of Barred Owls, a closely related, competing species that has moved into Spotted Owls’ range from the east.

Biologists have seen Barred Owls in Spotted Owl territories within the national park more and more frequently since Spotted Owl surveys began in 1997. For their new study, Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit’s Anna Mangan, the National Park Service’s Tara Chestnut, and their colleagues analyzed two decades’ worth of data from these surveys. “We found that Spotted Owls now occupy 50% fewer territories in the park than they did 20 years ago when the study began, despite the lack of habitat disturbance,” says Chestnut. “Spotted Owls were less likely to be present in territories where Barred Owls were detected, and if Spotted Owls were there, sharing space with Barred Owls made them less likely to breed. Only 18 adult Spotted Owls were detected in the study area in 2016, down from a high of 30 owls in 1998.”

“Barred Owls eat a wider range of foods and use a greater variety of forested habitats, including the old-growth forest required by Spotted Owls, and these generalist traits have aided them in their highly successful range expansion throughout the Pacific Northwest,” explains co-author Katie Dugger, a researcher the US Geological Survey’s Oregon Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. “Barred Owls are now competing with Northern Spotted Owls for food and space, and increased Barred Owl densities are associated with declines in Northern Spotted Owl populations across their range.”

“What is particularly alarming is that this decline has occurred even at Mount Rainier, where Spotted Owl habitat has been protected for over 100 years, with virtually no fire or logging disturbance,” says Mangan. “With Barred Owls detected at nearly every Spotted Owl territory monitored in the park, the future of Spotted Owls at Mount Rainier is tenuous. It also suggests that preserving owl habitat, while still crucial, is likely no longer enough to sustain the Spotted Owl population at Mount Rainier.”

If current trends continue, scientists predict that the Spotted Owl could be extinct in the region within approximately six to eight decades. “Conservation managers can focus on protecting old-growth habitat with steeper slopes, as we found this to have higher Spotted Owl occupancy, and can continue to monitor Barred Owl populations to better understand their effect on local Spotted Owl populations,” adds Mangan. “Managers will need to consider some creative solutions, and likely some unpopular choices, if the Northern Spotted Owl is going to be prevented from going extinct on public lands.”

Barred Owls reduce occupancy and breeding propensity of Northern Spotted Owl in a Washington old-growth forest is available at https://academic.oup.com/condor/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/condor/duz031.

About the journal: The Condor: Ornithological Applications is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology, published by the American Ornithological Society. For the past three years, The Condor has had the number one impact factor among 27 ornithology journals.