North American Ornithology: Past, present, and future comes to Chicago

The Field Museum and the Palmer House served as the meeting sites for 650 ornithologists from August 13-17.  These were joint meetings of the two largest North American ornithological societies, the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society.  On Tuesday (Aug. 13), three of the five workshops preceding the presentation sessions were held at the museum on topics that included working with egg collections (taught by Linnea Hall and René Corado from the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology) and collecting parasites from birds (taught by Research Scientist Jason Weckstein and colleagues).  The presentation and poster sessions were held at the Palmer House from the 13th-17th August.  Field Museum staff and students organized four of the meeting’s symposia on topics that included: The Assembly of the North American avifauna (Ben Winger, Committee on Evol. Biology, U. Chicago), How well do we know the Old World tropics? (Research Associate Sushma Reddy and Bird Division Collections Manager Ben Marks), Cowbird brood parasitism: A Uniquely New World Phenomenon (Research Associate Bill Strausburger and colleague Mark Hauber), and Avian Parasites: models for understanding process and patterns of diversification (Jason Weckstein and colleagues).

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Jason Weckstein teaches a packed parasite workshop along with University of North Dakota endoparasitologist Vasyl Tkach.


            The 20 presentations and posters presented by researchers associated with The Field Museum are listed down at the bottom and I’m pleased to write that authorship on papers included Filed Museum paleontologist Lance Grande and botanist Rick Ree to illustrate the cross cutting nature of the interactions.  Also, one talk (Jennie Lee, U. Chicago) and two posters (by Mark Swanson, Illinois Wesleyan, and Michael Hanson, graduate of Loyola University) were presented by undergraduates or recently graduated undergraduates.  The research presented was the result of fieldwork on four continents (North America, South America, Africa and Asia).  Many attendees came over to conduct research on specimens in the museum’s Bird Collections.

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Rosa Jiménez, a Guatemalan graduate student at the Instituto de Ecología in Xalapa, Vera Cruz, México, presented a talk at the meetings and then spent several days working in the museum's collections. Rosa's research is on Amazlia hummingbirds are their hybrid zones in Central America.


            I chaired the local committee with Mary Hennen, and Peter Lowther took charge of the scientific program.  Many other staff, students, and volunteers pitched in.  A number of people across the museum including Stephanie Ware (Insects), Mario Avila (Media Services), Ed Czerwin (Print Shop), Tyana Wachter (Action Science), Christine Giannoni (Library), Jean Cattell, Nel Fetherling, Greg Mercer, and Emily Ward (Exhibits) helped with various projects that enriched the meetings.    At a late night music event, Sean Bober and his band FulKinetic performed to a delighted crowd.  John Weinstein took a wonderful meeting group photo on Saturday evening.  The crowning event of the week was a Saturday night banquet in Stanley Field Hall where after their dinner, 330 attendees were treated to the revised Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds, the Green River fossils in Evolving Planet, Restoring Earth: The Abbott Hall of Conservation, and the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice DNA Discovery Center.  The meetings were a scientific success and attendees thoroughly enjoyed everything Chicago and the museum has to offer.


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A Field Museum Rare Book Room display of Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology and original copper plates used to print images.  The display was put out for the ornithology meetings. 


We brought several novel events that we hope might become traditions to these meetings.  The first was that through the efforts of Nick Block, we received support from local birding groups to support the attendance of a group of 10 High School Students to attend the meetings for a day.  These students came from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  They got to see talks and meet a number of ornithologists throughout the day.

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Following a day of attending talks, the young birders sponsored by local bird clubs were treated to pizza in Millenium Park with ornithologists Rebecca Kimball, John Fitzpatrick Aaron Olsen, Nick Block, Josh Engel and me. 


            On Wednesday night we provided popcorn and then screened The Field Museum’s award winning “Passion for Birds” video along with The Ordinary, Extraordinary Junco which was created by Ellen Ketterson, Jonathan Atwell and colleagues at Indiana University.  Following the screening we had a panel discussion in which Ellen, Christy Bergeon-Burns (Associate Producer/Director of the Junco project), Kate Webbink (Field Museum Media Producer), and Ed Scholes, Curator of Video, Cornell Lab of Ornithology discussed how to approach undertaking such projects and how to target audiences.  This video event combined with the short video contest arranged by Nick Block and the student affairs committee highlighted this important field of scientific communication.  In the future, such activities are likely to become commonplace with avian research projects.  This year's short video winner was University of Chicago and Committee on Evolutionary Biology doctoral student Aaron Olsen. 

Talks by Bird Division staff, graduate students, and associates.

1. Symposium on the Assembly of the North American avifauna: Introductory remarks. JULIA A. CLARKE, Dept. Geophysical Sci., Univ. Texas, Austin, TX and BEN WINGER, Bird Division, Field Mus. and Committee on Evol. Biol., Univ. Chicago, Chicago IL.

2.  Geographic range evolution and diversification in migratory North American birds. BEN WINGER, Bird Division, Field Mus. and Committee on Evol. Biol., Univ. Chicago, Chicago IL, and RICHARD REE, Dept. Botany, Field Mus.

3.  The temporal and spatial dynamics of speciation during the New World nine-primaried oscine radiation. DANIEL RABOSKY, Dept. Ecol. & Evol., Univ. Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, B. M. WINGER, Committee Evol. Biol., Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL, I. J. LOVETTE, Lab. Ornithol., Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY, F. K. BARKER, Dept. Ecol., Evol. & Behav., Univ. Minnesota, St Paul, MN, K. J. BURNS, Dept. Biol., San Diego State Univ., San Diego, CA, J. KLICKA, Dept. Biol., Univ. Washington, Seattle, WA, and S. M. LANYON, Dept. Ecol., Evol. & Behav., Univ. Minnesota.

4.  Advances in the understanding of Early Cenozoic avian evolution from the Green River avifauna. DANIEL KSEPCKA, Natl. Evol. Synthesis Center, Durham, NC, LANCE GRANDE, Field Mus., Chicago, IL, and JULIA A. CLARKE, Dept. Geophysi. Sci., Univ. Texas, Austin, TX.

5.  Ecological diversity of the 52-million year old Green River birds. JON MITCHELL, Committee on Evol. Biol., Univ. Chicago, and Field Mus., Chicago IL.

6.  Introduction to Symposium. How well do we know the Old World tropics? SUSHMA REDDY, Loyola Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL, and BEN MARKS, Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

7.  Explosive or non-explosive adaptive radiation? Cryptic diversity alters diversification rate estimates for the Bernieridae, a Malagasy passerine radiation. NICHOLAS L. BLOCK, SHANNON J. HACKETT, JOHN M.  BATES, STEVEN M. GOODMAN, Field Mus., Chicago, IL, and MARIE JEANNE RAHERILALAO, Univ. d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar.

8.  Assembly of an African continental montane avifauna: an assessment of the Albertine Rift avifauna. JOHN M. BATES, JOSH ENGEL, Field Mus., Chicago, IL., and CHARLES KAHINDO, Univ. Bukavu, Bukavu, Democratic Rep. Congo.

9.  When cospeciation isn't common: the importance of biogeography and host-specificity in host-parasite coevolutionary studies. JASON D. WECKSTEIN, Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Chicago, IL, HOLLY L. LUTZ, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY, THOMAS VALQUI, Centro de Ornitología y Biodiversidad, ALEXANDRE ALEIXO, Museu Paraense Emilío Goeldi, and JOHN M. BATES, Field Mus. Nat. Hist.

10.  Incubation delay-dependent sex ratio skew in a bird: the Brown-headed Cowbird. BILL M. STRAUSBERGER and JOHN LITERACKI, Pritzker Lab., Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

11.  Are genetic diversity and effective population size of the host generalist brood parasitic cowbird affected by West Nile Virus? JOHN CHARLES LITERACKI, Roosevelt Univ. and Pritzker Lab., Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

12.  Dynamic effects of nest-mates on growth and procurement of parental provisions by brood parasitic young. JUSTIN LOCK, School Biol. Sci., Univ. Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, BILL M. STRAUSBERGER, Pritzker Lab., Field Mus., Chicago, IL, and MARK E. HAUBER, Dept. Psychol., Hunter Coll. of City Univ. New York, New York, NY.

13.  Host choice of individual cowbirds across years: trade-offs among host range, parasitism efficiency, and offspring number? BILL M. STRAUSBERGER and J. DILON MADDOX, Pritzker Lab., Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

14.  Forest fragmentation in an eastern arc forest impacts key understory species in mixed species foraging flocks. NORBERT J. CORDEIRO, Dept. Bot. and Dept. Zool., Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

15.  The evolution of scientific collecting: comprehensive biodiversity surveys of avian parasites and pathogens can produce important baseline data and lead to novel eco-evolutionary insights. HOLLY L. LUTZ, Dept. Ecol. Evol. Biol., Dept. Pop. Med. & Diag. Sci., Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY, and Field Mus., Chicago, IL, ZIFENG JIANG, Inst. Genomics and Systems Biology, Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL, and Field Mus., HEATHER R. SKEEN, SHANNON J. HACKETT, and JASON D. WECKSTEIN, Field Mus.

16.  Nuclear and mitochondrial data illustrate the influence of habitat on intraspecific diversification in Tangara tanagers. AARON SAVIT and JOHN M. BATES, Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

17.  Comparative phylogeographic history of the Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans. JENNIE LEE, Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL, JOSÉ S. L. PATANÉ, Instituto Butantan, São Paulo, SP, Brazil, JOHN M.  BATES, Field Mus., Chicago, IL, ALEXANDRE ALEIXO, Museu Paraense Emilío Goeldi, Belém, Brazil, and JASON D WECKSTEIN, Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

18.  Duck, duck, goose: multiple origins of geese from a duck-like ancestor. AARON M OLSEN, Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL and MARK W WESTNEAT, Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

19.  Multivariate specialism and diversification in birds. N. M. CROUCH, Biol. Sci., Univ. Illinois, Chicago, IL, R. RICKLEFS, Univ. Missouri, St Louis, MO, and R. BIERREGAARD, Univ. North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC.

20.  A morphometric study of the White-starred Robin (Pogonocichla stellata). MICHAEL HANSON, JOHN M. BATES, Field Mus., Chicago, IL, and SUSHMA REDDY, Loyola Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL.


Different modes of evolution in males and females generate dichromatism in fairy-wrens (Maluridae). ALLISON E. JOHNSON, Dept. Ecol. & Evol., Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL, J. JORDAN PRICE, Dept. Biol., St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, MD, and STEPHEN PRUETT-JONES, Dept. Ecol. & Evol., Univ. Chicago.

Song overlapping: distinguishing between intention and chance. CHRISTINA MASCO and STEPHEN PRUETT-JONES, Dept. Ecol. & Evol., Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Use of skeletal morphometrics and phylogenetic relationships in predicting body mass in the diverse "waterbird" assemblage. LIAM E. HEINS, Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL, and NATHAN D. SMITH, Dept. Biol., Howard Univ., Washington, DC.

Allen’s Rule and bird bills: an intraspecific approach using House Sparrows. J. DYLAN MADDOX and J. TIMOTHY WOOTTON, Dept. Ecol. & Evol., Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Project Passenger Pigeon: message from Martha. S. M. SULLIVAN, Chicago Acad. Sci. and Peggy Notebaert Nature Mus., Chicago, IL, and J. GREENBERG, Peggy Notebaert Nature Mus. and Field Mus., Chicago, IL.

Causes of the mid-elevation peak in east Himalayan songbird diversity. TREVOR D. PRICE, Univ. Chicago, Chicago, IL, and DHANANJAI MOHAN, Wildlife Inst. India, Dehradun, India.

Corrosion casts: a novel application of Pu4ii resin for visualizing eggshell pore morphology. MARK T. SWANSON, JASON P. MURPHY, WILLIAM B. JAECKLE and R. GIVEN HARPER, Dept. Biol., Illinois Wesleyan Univ., Bloomington, IL.