About Wilson Ornithological Society

The Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS) is an international scientific society comprising community members who share a curiosity about birds. The WOS produces the quarterly Wilson Journal of Ornithology as the latest iteration of scientific journal publication supported by the Society since 1888. The WOS is committed to providing mentorship to both professional and amateur ornithologists through sponsorship of research, teaching, and conservation. Find us on wilsonsociety.org, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@WilsonOrnithSoc).

Guest Post: Documenting a Seabird Die-Off

This post was contributed by Robin Corcoran, author of a paper in the current issue of the The Wilson Journal of Ornithology documenting the Common Murre die-off described here.

Dead Common Murres found on the beach at the head of Pasagshak Bay, Kodiak, Alaska, on September 10, 2015.

As a bird biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Kodiak, Alaska, I’m used to getting reports about dead and injured birds in our region from the public. Part of my job is to track these reports and investigate and collect carcasses. So, I wasn’t alarmed at first when I received scattered sightings of a few dead Common Murres in April and early May 2015. I collected a few of the intact fresh carcasses and stored them in the biological specimen freezer at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, and then the reports stopped.

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Guest Post: Failure as Part of the Scientific Process

This post was contributed by Francesca Foltz, a senior at Loyola Marymount University and a 2020 Burtt Undergraduate Mentoring Grant recipient.

Francesca observing a flock of gulls and other shorebirds in her Avian Biology class, taught by Dr. Covino.

Two years, seven months, and ten days ago I sat in my professor’s office, nervously picking at my nails and wondering what was about to happen. My only indication lay in my email inbox with the subject title “Research” and a brief message about “discussing opportunities.” I couldn’t stop wondering what she wanted to talk about—even though the meeting was just another box on the calendar for the person across the desk, I had a premonition that it would be a turning point in my undergraduate career. So there I sat for one minute and thirty-eight seconds, destroying my cuticles with anxiety as Dr. Covino wrapped up a phone call. She hung up, grabbed a whiteboard marker, and proceeded to—for the first of what would be many, many times—draw diagrams of the project overview and goals for what she had dubbed “Project Poo.” The project aims to use fecal samples from breeding Great Black-backed Gulls to determine the testosterone levels of individual adults and determine if they’re correlated with the birds’ aggression levels. As someone with a lifelong love of birds and a budding appreciation for lab work, this piqued my interest immediately. Without hesitation, I jumped on board this project with Allie, another student, and we began the process of applying for funding.

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Introducing the New WOS Mentoring Program

As is the case with members of many professional societies, those currently active with the WOS typically get involved via their connections with those who preceded them. The difficulty of building these professional networks can add to the substantial barriers already faced by many hoping to go into ornithology as a career, and the new WOS Mentoring Program hopes to address this.

The initial cohort of mentees will receive financial support to attend the 2022 WOS meeting and free WOS membership for one year following the award and will be matched with mentors to receive individual career mentoring, professional development, and networking opportunities. This program is open to both students and early-career professionals (five years or less of professional experience) who live within a ten-hour drive of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and are willing to attend the meeting in July in person. See this page for full eligibility details and application instructions. Applications from potential mentees are due January 15!

Guest Post: Spying on Developing Birds Inside Their Eggs

This post was contributed by Alex Di Giovanni, an incoming PhD student at George Mason University and a 2020 WOS Research Grant recipient.

A Northern Cardinal nest with a sensor to monitor temperature.

I am fascinated by behavioral ecology — how and why birds do what they do. I recently graduated with my Master’s degree from Mike Ward’s lab at the University of Illinois, where I investigated how the embryos of several shrubland and grassland songbirds including Field Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, Gray Catbirds, and Northern Cardinals develop inside their eggs. Songbirds face many different challenges during the breeding season and must make decisions to deal with these challenges, including where and when to nest, how many eggs to lay, and how to incubate their eggs efficiently.

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Research Grants and NEW Early Professional Impact Award Now Open

Applications for two important opportunities from the Wilson Ornithological Society are open now through February 1!

Our four categories of research grant provide up to $2500 to support ornithology projects by researchers including students, early-career professionals, and those with limited access to funding. See here for full eligibility details and application instructions, and read about the 2021 recipients here.

We are also now accepting nominations (including self-nominations) for our brand new Early Professional Avian Conservation and Community Impact Award! This award honors the contributions of WOS members working in non-research careers that contribute to bird and bird habitat conservation, including applied science, education and outreach, communications, advocacy, and habitat conservation and protection. To be eligible, you must have five years or less of work experience in a job related to avian conservation. The winner will receive an original piece of artwork from an early career artist as well as funding to support attendance at the WOS annual meeting (meeting registration, travel, hotel, per diem) and an honorarium. See here for full eligibility details and application instructions.

Again, applications for both the research grants and the Impact Award are due February 1. Please spread the word!