Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It is an exciting time to be here at the LSU Museum of Natural Science. We are pleased to report that sixteen graduate students are working to sustain the ornithological inertia of this institution! If you plan a visit to the Museum (you are always welcome), be prepared for enthusiasm and bird-talk. In addition to the stimulating camaraderie here at the LSUMNS, we are excited about the nearly completed synthesis of the bird tissue and skin databases, and about the planning for our summer 2016 expeditions to Brazil and Peru. During our spare moments we are also sneaking off to keep tabs on the local bird life–especially now that the early spring migrants are arriving in Louisiana.
Spring migration is a special time for us ornithology graduate students–in part because of our Annual Louisiana Big Day Fundraiser. This event is timed to take place when bird diversity is highest in the state, due to the large number of migratory bird species passing through on their way to northerly breeding grounds, in combination with local breeders already on territory, and (hopefully) some lingering wintering species. On the Big Day, after weeks of scouting and planning, a team of graduate students will scour the state for 24 hours in an attempt to see as many bird species as possible under American Birding Association Big Day rules. We target the end of April, but we’ll be closely monitoring the weather forecasts to pick the best day possible. On April 29 of last year, our Big Day team recorded 210 species, which brought us to within eleven species of the state record set by LSU students in 2010. With the right combination of effort, weather, and luck, we hope to approach or even surpass that record number this year!
We ask our donors, we hope including you, to either pledge a dollar amount for each species we find during the Big Day, or simply donate what you wish. The funds that we raise on the Big Day provide support for field and lab work conducted by ornithology graduate students at the Museum. This money also helps us tremendously in launching newly conceived research projects, and in filling funding gaps when our grants run low. During the last year, we used Big Day funds to support our expedition to Borneo, buy materials to sequence DNA from our specimens, andcover travel costs to present our latest research at scientific meetings.
The graduate program at the LSUMNS is widely regarded as one of the premier programs for bird study, and your donations provide vital support for the program. We hope that you will consider donating to the Big Day fundraiser this year. As always, we are grateful for and inspired by your support.
The LSUMNS Ornithology Graduate Students
Click the “Donate Online” button below and fill out the donation form. When you arrive at the section entitled “Designations,” choose “Other” and type “Ornithology Student Support Fund” in the “Gift Comments” blank. THANK YOU!!
In September and October 2015, LSUMNS ornithology graduate students Glenn Seeholzer, Oscar Johnson, andAndre Moncrieff conducted a bird survey of the Gran Pajonal and remote Sira mountains in central Peru. They documented a host of species from these difficult-to-access sites, including the aptly named Sira Tanager, not collected since its discovery in 1969.
More recently, Oscar Johnson and Ryan Terrill were involved in a multi-institutional expedition to Equatorial Guinea—a country with one of the least-studied avifaunas in the world. Oscar and Ryan collected fifteen new bird species for the LSUMNS collection and three new genera! They also collected the first modern specimens of Zosterops brunneus, which also represents the first tissue samples for this endemic species. Oscar and Ryan audio recorded numerous species, including five new species for the Macaulay Library collection where the recordings are archived. Their work represents a major breakthrough for understanding the natural history and diversification of the region’s bird life.
In the past year, current LSUMNS ornithology graduate students published articles in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, PLoS One, PeerJ, Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, and Forktail. We congratulate Glenn Seeholzer on receiving a post-doctoral position at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he will be headed in fall 2016. We also congratulate Michael Harvey, who completed his PhD in November 2015 and received an NSF post-doctoral fellowship to work in Dan Rabosky’s lab at the University of Michigan.
All of these projects and publications have directly benefitted from your past contributions to this program.