Flocking together: history’s largest ornithology conference boasts strong showing for UWindsor

Some of the University of Windsor scientists who presented their research findings at the North American Ornithological Congress last week in Washington, DC.Some of the University of Windsor scientists who presented their research findings at the North American Ornithological Congress last week in Washington, DC.

The University of Windsor made a world-class showing of ornithological expertise last week during the North American Ornithological Congress, says biology professor Dan Mennill, one of 14 researchers representing the school.

The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, hosted the congress, the largest gathering of ornithologists in history, with more than 2,000 attendees from more than 40 countries.

A total of 14 graduate students and faculty from the Department of Biological Sciences and the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research attended, featuring research from the laboratories of professors Stephanie Doucet, Daniel Heath, Oliver Love, and Christina Semeniuk as well as Dr. Mennill. They presented findings on topics that ranged from the effects of weather on bird migration through the Great Lakes, to the foraging behaviour of birds in northern Canada, to the territorial singing behaviour of tropical birds.

“We had 20 spoken papers and poster presentations by our graduate students and faculty,” said Mennill, who joined eight of his graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in Washington and presented his own research on vocal communication in sparrows. “Our students presented some cutting-edge research at this huge international conference.”

Ines Moran, a master’s student in Mennill’s lab, said the conference gave her the opportunity to broaden her knowledge in topics ranging from acoustic communication and climate change to ecology and evolution.

“It also allowed me to connect with researchers in my field, including the plenary speaker Jessica Meir, who is both an ornithologist and an astronaut with NASA,” she said.

Rachel Hasson, another master’s student in Mennill’s laboratory, said she was excited to meet researchers from across the globe: “I was glad to be able to share my research with so many other scientists. I would never have met these researchers otherwise.” 

In addition to current students, the conference also included presentations by many University of Windsor alumni.

“One highlight of the conference, for me, was to see our alumni succeeding in their research positions around the globe,” Mennill said. “There were students who conducted their graduate degrees from University of Windsor who now hold faculty positions and postdoctoral positions in Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica.”

Photos from the event are available on Mennill’s website.

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