October 18, 2011

Lab of Ornithology Receives $3.45M To Study Migration

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Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology received a total of $3.45 million from two separate sources to fund research in migratory patterns of birds, elephants and whales, according to a University press release on Oct. 13.

The funds came from a $1.25 million donation by the Kenneth L. Harder Trust and a $2.2 million grant provided by the National Science Foundation.

“Cornell is very important in the ornithology world and marine research,” said Paul Allen, a research specialist in the Lab of Ornithology. “It’s one of the leading resource centers.”

According to its website, the Lab of Ornithology provides avian information to companies, such as PETA and Greenpeace, as well as sound effects for Hollywood movies, among other research and educational objectives.

The lab will use the donation from the Harder Trust to expand the Acoustic Monitoring Project, a program that tracks the migratory patterns of birds, elephants and whales. According to Allen, AMP’s project leader, the AMP records specific bird calls and translates the data to predict the location of the flock and its general destination.

Because the AMP is not limited to bird research, the grant will also further development in marine research, Allen said, specifically in whale communication and the effect of human population development.

“We want to know if whales are impacted by the presence of humans, and we want to reduce their endangerment.” Allen said.

The recent donations may increase the Lab of Ornithology’s already wide influence in the field of animal research. Allen said he hopes that the grant will “expand the capabilities [of the lab], so we can reach out to more agencies and offer our services.”

The gift was made possible by the family of Kenneth Harder, a birder and supporter of the lab of Ornithology.

The $2.2 million from the National Science Foundation will help sustain BirdCast, a migration forecast program. BirdCast predicts national migrations of different species through a combination of audio, weather and sightings, according to the Lab of Ornithology’s website.

BirdCast focuses on the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. and is a joint project with the Environmental Protection Agency, The National Audubon Society, Clemson’s Radar Ornithology Library and The Academy of Natural Science, as well as Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology.

BirdCast encourages the participation of civilian bird-watchers to verify radar images that Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology provides. According to the BirdCast website, bird-watchers are encouraged to report birding information to “ground-truth” radar images through BirdSource, an interactive database developed and maintained by National Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Original Author: Kevin Milian