Friday, August 24, 2007

Trip Report Part 8: AOU (Aug 8-11)

This part will be short: the 125th Stated Meeting of the American Ornithological Meeting, the whole reason behind the big trip. It was, in short, phenomenal. Not much to write about, as I have no pictures, and can't replicate the work of all the great talks I saw. I did a lot of networking and grad school prospecting. I met many fascinating people, including but not limited to (be sure to check these people out for some great research!):

Darren Irwin (U British Columbia), working on hybrid zones between Eastern and Western bird species in British Columbia, including Winter Wrens, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and some newly discovered contact zones.

Kevin J. Burns (San Diego State U), working on California phylogeography and the phylogeny of Tanagers.

Robert Moyle (U Kansas), working on systematics and biodiversity in Southeast Asia.

Sara Morris (Canisius), working on songbird migration.

Jed Burtt (Ohio Wesleyan),
working on feather structure.

Mara McDonald (U Wisconsin), did her Ph.D dissertation on the same birds I'm working on - the Hispaniolan Palm-Tanagers (Phaenicophilus).

Scott Lanyon (U Minnesota), working on the Icterid phylogeny.

Zac Cheviron (LSU, grad), working on variation in Zonotrichia capensis.
Matt Carling (LSU, grad), working on the Lazuli/Indigo Bunting hybrid zone.

If any of you happen to read this - thanks again for being so generous with your time and responding to all my grad school questions! I had a great time and look forward to seeing you in the future.

In addition to the conference staple of talks, talks, and talks, there was the Student Quiz-bowl. Team Ergaticus Major (Big Red Warblers, anyone?), consisting of Scott Haber, Shawn Billerman, and myself, were there representing Cornell undergrads. Cornell was also present in two other teams: the Red-cockaded Nighthawks, with Cornell alum Erin Hewitt and Cornell grad student Rebecca Lohnes; also the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory Menials, with Cornell alums Colby Neuman and Pete Hosner, as well as friend Nick Block. There were nine teams in all, competing in three rounds of three teams before the winners go on to the championship round. Ergaticus Major won the first round, knocking out in good sport the Red-cockaded Nighthawks. LSU's team the Van Remsen's, consisting of Zac, Matt, and James Maley, won the second round, and the Menials won the third. These three heavyweight teams came together for the finals in a rough slugging match of ornithological wit and wisdom - but always in good humor. It came down to final jeopardy, neck-and-neck. We were barely ahead, thanks to Scott's lightning-quick buzzer-finger. Final jeopardy question - What bird is on the Mexican Flag? Our answer of Golden Eagle, and some good brinksmanship number-crunching, landed Ergaticus Major the victory. Of course, there was much discussion during the celebration later that night with the other teams whether it was actually a Golden Eagle or it was meant to be a Caracara (the "Mexican Eagle").

Over-dramatized quiz-bowl shenanigans aside, we had a great time at the meeting. We also racked up a decent campus list:


Fox Squirrel


Turkey Vulture
Great Horned Owl
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Common Nighthawk
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
House Finch
Pine Siskin
House Sparrow

Two final notes: Laramie has some of the funniest gas station names ever, including Loaf 'N' Jug, and Kum & Go ("We Go All Out!"). The campus also has a really cool, detailed sculpture of Chief Washakie:

Part 9: Snowy Range

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