Avian Research at Northern Michigan University

Many of us in Michigan are fans of a small, shy bird known as the Kirtland Warbler. This creature has a wonderful story of going from nearly extinct to growing to a respectable sized population largely through thoughtful attention and management by a host of government agencies, researchers, non-profits and enthusiasts. A wonderful, highly readable account of the bird is found in William Rapai’s The Kirtland Warbler-the story of a bird’s fight against extinction and the people who helped save it, published by the University of Michigan Press.

Part of the story is the slow, painstaking research that individuals have been undertaking to understand the bird and to help ensure it’s progress is not wiped away.

Northern Michigan University master’s student, Katie Bjornen is one such researcher.

Her research focuses on bird’s ability to use their olfactory sense to smell chemicals released by trees when the trees are being eaten by insects causing the birds to come to the trees and eat the insects. At least that is the theory currently being investigated.

Katie’s research focuses on the jack pine, a type of tree preferred by the Kirtland Warbler. Her promising research could help develop greater understanding of the exact processes used by birds and trees to help promote their mutual survival.

For more information about Katie’s research, please read NMU’s Katie Evans’ article here.

Teachers of biology and ecology may find this article of benefit for their classrooms.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How do birds choose which trees to eat insects from?
  2. What is Katie’s research hypothesis?
  3. How does Katie’s research extend what is already known about how bird’s choose the trees to forage from?
  4. What is the implication of Katie’s research for the Kirtland Warbler?
  5. What is a deciduous tree?
  6. How did Katie get her start in avian research?
  7. What is ornithology?

Author: JMiller/wideopenresearch

JMiller Writer and Educator

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