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Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in Raptor Research

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  • P254-341-256-398-00h-006-02-0360-1080-0359-1079

    APPLICATIONS FOR SUMMER 2015 WILL OPEN AROUND MID-DECEMBER 2014.

    The REU Site in Raptor Research (REU-RR) is funded by the National Science Foundation and Boise State University.  REU-RR is a 10-week summer research program located at Boise State University, Boise, Idaho.  Field and laboratory research projects are available for students.

    The goal of the REU-Raptor Research site is to engage undergraduates in biological research using birds of prey (hawks, owls, falcons, and eagles) as model systems.  Though partnerships among the Department of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center at Boise State University, The Peregrine Fund, Inc., Idaho Bird Observatory, and the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, undergraduates will spend 10 weeks conducting field and/or laboratory research under the guidance of experienced mentors from academia, government, and NGOs.  Students can also  participate in a core program that includes workshops on the biology of diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey, and endangered species restoration, as well as programs focused on responsible conduct of research, applying to graduate school, the publication process, and scientific communication.  The summer research experience for REU-RR participants culminates with an interdisciplinary summer research conference that provides participants the opportunity to communicate their work to a diverse audience of students and scientists.

    Tentative SUMMER 2015 Dates are May 26 – August 1, 2015

    The Application period for Summer 2015 will open in mid-December 2015.  Applications will be due in mid-February 2015 (deadline TBD).  Please see the Application Tab for additional information and to apply to REU-Raptor Research.  Please know that REU-Raptor Research welcomes your application. We are especially interested in receiving applications from groups underrepresented in science (i.e., women and racial minorities), first generation college students, persons with disabilities, those returning from military service, and students from institutions where research opportunities in STEM are limited.

    For additional information or if you have questions, please contact:
    Dr. Jim Belthoff, REU-RR
    Department of Biological Sciences and
    Raptor Research Center
    Boise State University
    Boise, ID 83725
    Email: reu-rr@boisestate.edu

     

  • Boise, Idaho is known throughout the world as a hub for raptor research. It is home to the Raptor Research Center (RRC) at Boise State University, The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey, the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State University, the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, and the Raptor Biology Graduate Program in the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) at Boise State University.

    The REU-RR is designed to use raptor research as a model to understand biological phenomena and interactions, and to provide participants opportunity for a cohort experience, mentored research, and professional development. Research on raptors will use modern tools to address questions that range from the molecular ecology to ecosystem processes. Research on raptors spans both basic and applied science, so students will gain broad exposure as well as focused study.

     

    For additional information or if you have questions, please contact:
    Dr. Jim Belthoff, REU-RR
    Department of Biological Sciences and
    Raptor Research Center
    Boise State University
    Boise, ID 83725
    Email: reu-rr@boisestate.edu

  • Dr. David Anderson

    Program Director for The Peregrine Fund’s Gyrfalcon and Tundra Conservation Project

    Research Interests: I am the Program Director for The Peregrine Fund’s Gyrfalcon and Tundra Conservation project.  My goal is to learn how climate change may affect the breeding biology and population status of Gyrfalcons throughout the Arctic through a series of cascading effects that ripple through the entire tundra ecosystem.  This is a new program, and we are starting field studies in western Alaska on Gyrfalcon diet, and factors related to population biology like productivity, occupancy, and nest site selection.  See Dr. Anderson’s Peregrine Fund web page here.

    Dr. Jesse Barber

    Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

    Barber­_v2Research Interests: We address behavioral, evolutionary and conservation-related questions. We employ bioacoustic and videographic techniques to quantify how animals process sensory input and act on the resulting information. Understanding how anthropogenic changes to the sensory environment alter animal behavior also drives the research in the Sensory Ecology Lab. Our approach combines field research and controlled experimental design with an emphasis on natural history. We are focused on problems, not taxa, and currently study bats, insects, owls, rodents and songbirds.

    The Sensory Ecology Lab: is equipped with high-speed and high-definition cameras, ultrasonic and sonic recording units, and outstanding indoor and outdoor animal imaging facilities.  Our behavioral work is funded by NSF and NPS. Visit Jesse Barber’s faculty page here.

    Dr. Marc Bechard

    Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Interim Director Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

    BECHARD3 (Custom)Research Interests: I am interested in plants and animals, particularly birds. I have conducted botanical and air pollution research projects but more recently have turned to ecological studies of the habitat needs of such birds of prey as eagles, hawks, falcons, and ospreys with the aim of helping to preserve biological diversity.

    • Northern Goshawk Breeding Ecology in aspen forests of Nevada. With the help of two graduate students, I have addressed the issue of habitat requirements of this species when nesting in an unusual setting like high- elevation aspen forests.
    • Swainson’s Hawk Migration. I am conducting satellite telemetry study in cooperation with several federal, state and private entities to document the routes and wintering areas of this species in while it migrates to Argentina.
    • Kestrel Population Ecology. I am conducting a long-term study of the longevity and lifetime reproduction of American kestrels that breed in nest boxes in an agricultural setting

    Visit Marc Bechard’s faculty page here.

    Dr. Jim Belthoff

    Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center, Boise State University and PI on REU-Raptor Research

    belthoffcropResearch Interests: Much of my research focuses on the biology, behavior, and ecology of owls and other birds.  I’m interested in dispersal, migration, mating systems, territoriality, ectoparasites and disease ecology, and how habitat conversion to agriculture affects birds of prey.  I have current projects related to the population biology, behavioral ecology, ectoparasites, and conservation of burrowing owls; roadway mortality of barn owls; and the biology of flammulated owls and western screech-owls. Visit Jim Belthoff’s faculty page here.

     Dr. Jay Carlisle

    Research Director, Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO) and Department of Biological Sciences, Boise State University

    Jay_GIFResearch Interests: Jay’s research interests are focused on the stopover ecology, habitat needs, and conservation of migratory land birds in the West and in Latin America. He has authored and co-authored over 15 peer-reviewed publications, many of which focus on migration and stopover issues, as well as numerous technical reports. He also dreams of establishing a year-round research program that would include migration and wintering studies in Latin America. Equally important, Jay really enjoys the outreach aspects of IBO’s many programs and hopes that IBO can be instrumental in instilling a conservation ethic in and around the communities in which we work. In 2010, Jay and several colleagues at Idaho Department of Fish and Game began working to form the Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership (IBCP), an effort designed to contribute to the management, science delivery, outreach, and conservation of birds and their habitats in Idaho via enhanced collaboration and communication. Jay is now excited to be serving as the part-time coordinator for the IBCP. In his free time, Jay enjoys birding, soccer, hiking, biking, trying to speak Spanish, and international travel. Visit Jay Carlisle’s page here.

    Dr. Marie-Anne de Graaff

    Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Boise State University
    IMG_1323

    The de Graaff and Forbey labs intersect at questions related to plant tissue quality, and diverge at questions of how plant quality affects and is affected by either soil microbes (de Graaff) or herbivores (Forbey). This REU-RR site grant will provide students with the opportunity to examine, soil, plant, herbivore and raptor interactions as an integrated system.

    Research Interests: Broadly our lab studies how changes in climate and land-use affect ecosystem processes that drive the global carbon cycle. We are especially interested in the question of how plant roots and soil microorganisms interact to affect soil carbon and nutrient dynamics. Visit Marie-Anne de Graaff’s  faculty page here.

    Dr. Jennifer Forbey

    Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

    Jen with sage-grouseThe Forbey lab is focused on raptor-herbivore-plant interactions in changing habitats, and the de Graaff lab is focused on plant-soil interactions in changing habitats. This REU-RR site grant will provide students with the opportunity to examine, soil, plant, herbivore and raptor interactions as an integrated system.

    Research Interests: Animals are faced with the daily challenge of processing large quantities of toxins present in their environment. However, the way animals respond and deal with these toxins is poorly understood. I am interested in understanding the behavioral and physiological consequences of exposure to plant secondary metabolites (i.e. toxins) and the mechanisms that herbivores employ to mitigate the negative effects of exposure to plant toxins. Visit Jennifer Forbey’s faculty page here.

    Dr. Mark Fuller

    Affiliate Faculty, Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

    Research Interests: Avian habitat associations, annual movements; Raptor population dynamics, survey and monitoring, food habits; natural resources conservation. Visit Mark Fuller’s USGS page here and his Peregrine Fund profile here.

    Dr. Julie Heath

    Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

    peregrine3-680x442Research Interests: My lab addresses questions about how birds survive and reproduce in human-dominated environments. We use physiological and behavioral ecology approaches to understand interactions between global change and bird populations. Much of the research in my lab has focused on avian reproduction and migration. Studies that aid in our understanding of the links between habitat conditions and the physiological or behavioral mechanisms that are driving population declines can help inform wildlife management and aid in the conservation of declining species. Visit Julie Heath’s faculty page here.

    Greg Kaltenecker

    Executive Director, Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO), Boise State University

    greg_and_aylaResearch Interests: One of Greg’s objectives was to provide an exciting and real-life research and training opportunity for Boise State students while conducting long-term research and community outreach. Greg’s research passion is bird migration, and his lifelong pursuit is to educate the public about birds, science, and conservation. He believes that a strong public community presence is critical to being an effective scientist and the easiest way to accomplish conservation is through active public engagement. The most rewarding part of his life is sharing his passion with the local public, and introducing children to birds, nature, and the outdoors. In his spare time, Greg can be found enjoying the public lands of Idaho while fishing, hunting, and hiking. His thoughts and efforts focus on his family including wife Deniz and two daughters Ayla and Alara. He daydreams often of his favorite outdoor pursuit: saltwater fly fishing, and Greg and family vacation to the sea as much as possible to chase this passion. Visit Greg Kaltenecker’s page here.

    Dr. Jim Smith

    Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Director of Snake River Plains Herbarium, Boise State University

    Research Interests: My laboratory focuses on molecular approaches to addressing evolutionary questions. Advances in the past 20+ years have enabled the use of DNA to rapidly answer many important biological questions in a cost-effective manner. Among these are questions relating to gene flow, population structure, species boundaries, source of migrants, and identifying species using DNA barcoding, all of which can be applied to raptor biology. Visit Jim Smith’s faculty page here.

    Dr. Rick Watson

    Vice President and Director of International Programs, The Peregrine Fund, Inc., Boise, Idaho

    Research Interests: Raptor Conservation and Endangered Species Recovery. Dr. Watson is vice president of The Peregrine Fund and Rick Watsonworks with students throughout the world on conservation issues related to raptors.  Visit Rick Watson’s Peregrine Fund home page here. You can visit Dr. Watson’s Global Raptor Information Network Profile here.

  • Below are some examples of possible projects.  The projects on which REU participants work may include one or more of these or others not listed depending on student and mentor interest at the time of selection of program participants.

    Dr. David Anderson’s Project

    Relationship between shifts in the timing of the availability of alternative prey, and their potential affects on reproductive success in Gyrfalcons and other raptors in Alaska

    Gyrfalcons (Falco rusticolus) have an interesting diet.  Early in the breeding season the only type of prey that is available to them are ptarmigan (Lagopus spp.).  As other types of prey become available later in the breeding seasons, such as migratory birds or young squirrels and foxes, they gradually incorporate these into the diet as well.

    The goal of this project is model the complex relationship between shifts in the timing of the availability of alternative prey, and their potential affects on reproductive success in Gyrfalcons.  Diet studies are based on videos at the nest and the collection of prey remains.  REU-RR students will have the opportunity to analyze the diet composition of Gyrfalcons, or other raptors of the Seward Peninsula, such as Golden Eagles and Rough-legged Hawks.

    Dr. Jesse Barber’s Projects

    Video of saw-whet owl hunting behavior (very cool!)

    Northern saw-whet owl hunting behavior in anthropogenic noise

    An example of how prey localization accuracy (f) is quantified during experiments with saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadius) hunting mice and an example of a red bat (Lasiurus borealis) avoiding a sound-producing tiger moth. Tveer is a measure of when the bat broke off its attack. See Barber et al. 2009 for details.

    An example of how prey localization accuracy (f) is quantified during experiments with saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadius) hunting mice and an example of a red bat (Lasiurus borealis) avoiding a sound-producing tiger moth. Tveer is a measure of when the bat broke off its attack. See Barber et al. 2009 for details.

    Northern saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadius) are an ideal model to examine the influence of anthropogenic noise on an acoustically-specialized predator because of their reliance on sound to catch prey visually hidden by nocturnal light levels and vegetation.

    The goal of this project is to determine the impact of noise on saw-whet owl hunting behavior. We will pit raptors against their natural prey, deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), in a flight tent while varying the background sound level with an array of speakers. Owls are filmed with high-speed cameras for 3-dimensional reconstruction of their flight path and hunting success

    Bioacoustic methods of determining owl habitat use in noise

    On a broader scale, we will ascertain the role of anthropogenic noise in structuring owl habitat use by deploying autonomous recording units to capture saw-whet owl vocalizations. Once general vocalizing areas have been determined during a control period we will place speakers broadcasting anthropogenic noise in key locations throughout the study area.

    The goal of this project is to determine the impact on owl habitat use, measured indirectly via vocalization behavior. These two projects will enable REU-RR researchers to gain experience in deploying autonomous recording units, setting up speaker systems, processing acoustic data, and addressing hypotheses related to the effects of noise on owl behavior.

    Dr. Marc Bechard’s Project

    Habitat use by Argentine turkey vultures migrating to Bolivia

    The movement ecology of migrating raptors is poorly understood, often because of the great distances these birds cover during annual movements. The development of satellite telemetry has greatly facilitated data collection. I have been conducting collaborative research with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (Orwigsburg, PA) on the movements of migrating turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in Argentina. Turkey vultures were equipped with satellite transmitters and have been tracked for three years. Sufficient data are now available to characterize the movement ecology of the vultures and address research questions about the factors influencing vulture movement.

    The goal of this project is to use GIS to understand the spatial ecology and migration patterns of vultures. The REU-RR student will evaluate hypotheses concerning spatial use, age-related differences in the timing of migration, and habitat use on wintering grounds and along migration routes. The REU-RR student will have the opportunity to learn about satellite telemetry and GIS and interact with graduate students and other collaborators at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

    Dr. Jim Belthoff’s Projects

    Research in the Belthoff lab focuses on avian ecology, behavior, population dynamics, management, and conservation.

    Roadway mortality of barn owls (Tyto alba) along a local interstate highway

    Dead Barn Owl along interstateThousands of barn owls die annually along this highway; in fact, we have documented the highest roadway mortality rates of owls reported world-wide. Our research is focused on deciphering the factors contributing to the high rates and experimentally testing mitigation alternatives to reduce collisions. We also use the carcasses to address hypotheses related to evolution or the biology of birds; e.g., two recent papers tested relationships between plumage ornamentation and individual quality, and whether beak and claw morphology is related to ectoparasite prevalence and intensity.

    The goal of this project is to document barn owl use of the highway corridor. REU-RR participants will document 1) barn owl activity using radiotelemetry, 2) the effects of mortality on population dynamics using occupancy and demographic modeling, 3) the role of perch availability in influencing highway mortality, or 4) the effect of small mammal abundance on owls along roads. Some overnight travel from Boise is required.

    Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) trophic ecology in natural versus agricultural areas

    P254-341-256-398-00h-006-02-0360-1080-0359-1079Using stable isotopes analysis of C and N, we are examining the community ecology of burrowing owls in both environments. We are also modeling trophic interactions of the entire suite of raptors (eagles, hawks, falcons, owls), comparing these results, generated using modern methods of trophic analysis based on stable isotopes, with classic studies that used traditional methods based on pellet analysis and prey remains. Data are also providing important baseline information by which effects of climate change on raptor populations and their habitats can be assessed.

    The goal of this project is to determine the influence of irrigated agriculture on arid ecosystems and other aspects of habitat conversion via disturbance. REU-RR students will learn how to capture, handle, and mark raptor species, obtain feather and other tissue samples, and analyze them using mass spectrometry to assess C and N stable isotopes and determine how community processes change among habitats or with climate change.

    Genetic population structure, mating systems, and sex ratio variation in western screech-owls (Megascops asio), burrowing owls, and barn owls

    This study will use blood samples collected during long-term studies of these species. REU-RR participants will combine field and laboratory studies to address questions about multiple parentage in nests, genetic diversity within and between populations, offspring sex ratios, relationship between morphology and sex, or to identify the source populations of barn owls dying along the interstate.

    Does sunning behavior in nestling burrowing owls reduce ectoparasites?

    We have observed in photographs from nest cameras that owls ‘sun’ themselves by spreading their wings on the ground (see photo). Sunning occurs in several bird species, and it frequently functions in ectoparasite defense or to reduce feather degrading bacteria.

    This study will assess the hypothesis that sunning behavior observed in burrowing owls reduces fleas on owls. An experiment that fumigates some nests but not others can help understand the behavior. Nest cameras will capture footage that will be analyzed to determine if sunning behavior is more frequent in control nests where ectoparasites have not been removed. REU-RR participants will help design this experiment, deploy field cameras to make observations, quantify ectoparasites on owls, and compare the incidence and rate of sunning in control and treatment groups by analyzing images from nest cameras.

    Dr. Jay Carlisle and Greg Kaltenecker’s Project

    Breeding biology of northern goshawks in southern Idaho

    The IBO and Boise State partner with the USDA Sawtooth National Forest to study breeding northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis), a species of special concern for many land management agencies, in southern Idaho. This population has been studied for the past decade for occupancy and productivity at a subset of historic nesting territories. The population is unusual in that (1) it occurs in an area lacking tree squirrels, which are important prey in virtually every other portion of this species’ geographic range, and (2), though the species typically is found in coniferous forests, in the South Hills it resides in both aspen (Populus tremuloides) and coniferous forests.

    The goal of this project is to examine and model the complex relationship between prey availability and habitat structure of nesting areas with occupancy and nesting success. Studies are planned that focus on the importance of annual variation in prey availability, genetic population structure, demography, and the impacts of endo- and ectoparasites on nestling health and survival. REU-RR students will gain field experience and draw from published literature to design their research questions. Students will have access to long-term data sets to address novel questions on raptor migration, predator-prey dynamics, and/or aspects of northern goshawk nesting ecology. Field experience will include prey availability sampling (count transects and songbird mist-netting), nest-searching, capture/banding of northern goshawk nestlings and breeding adults, and collection of blood, ectoparasites, and/or feather samples. Some overnight travel of REU-RR students from Boise is required.

    Drs. Jennifer Forbey and Marie-Anne de Graaff’s Project

    Raptor-herbivore-plant-soil interactions in a changing environment

    The Forbey lab is focused on raptor-herbivore-plant interactions in changing habitats, and the de Graaff lab is focused on plant-soil interactions in changing habitats. The de Graaff and Forbey labs intersect at questions related to plant tissue quality, and diverge at questions of how plant quality affects and is affected by either soil microbes (de Graaff) or herbivores (Forbey).

    Climate-mediated changes are expected to contribute to future habitat change that is predicted to decrease the dietary quality of plants and increase predation risk to herbivores and therefore alter predator-prey-plant dynamics. For example, the addition of power lines associated with energy development decreases vegetation cover and increases perch sites for raptors, which use power utility structures from which to hunt prey. Energy development can also reduce the availability and continuity of cover as refuge for herbivores and further increase predation risk for prey of raptors. In addition, the majority of studies indicate that rises in CO2 and temperature will result in a decline in nitrogen and minerals and an increase in chemical defenses in plants, making plants less palatable to herbivores. Further, widespread invasion of grasses alters the soil microbial community and specifically, the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). These changes in the soil community can feedback to reduce the tissue quality of plants. Lower quality plants may result in increased exposure to predators if herbivores are forced to spend more time searching for higher quality foods. Moreover, ultraviolet chemicals in plants such are phenolics, which have been linked to AMF abundance, are excreted by herbivores consuming plants, and can be visually detected by raptors, could make herbivores feeding on such plants more conspicuous to predators.

    The goal of our projects is to assess how soil, plants, herbivores and predators are related in the sagebrush steppe system. REU-RR students will quantify the relationship between AMF abundance and communities, diet quality (e.g. lower nitrogen and concentration of phenolics), foraging responses of herbivores (e.g. giving up densities, vigilance, foraging and travel time, excretion of urinary phenolics) and predation risk (e.g. perch sites, raptor densities, cover quality) in a single system under different levels of precipitation or energy development. They will also conduct controlled laboratory or field experiments where they will observe the physiological, morphological and behavioral responses of individual trophic levels following manipulation of one of the trophic levels. These studies will provide insights into the direct and indirect interactions among multiple trophic levels from fungi, to plants, to herbivores, to raptors and can be used to predict how climate change may influence these interactions.

    Dr. Mark Fuller’s Project

    Raptor occurrence and habitat associations on the Snake River Plain

    Surveys for raptors often require special design and field procedures because many individuals often are widely dispersed and thus are detected infrequently across the landscape. This is problematic for research of occurrence, abundance, and behavior such as habitat use. Imperfect detection also presents a problem when species are not reliably sampled even though they are present. This information is important to determine the efficacy of restoration activities currently underway within the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA) to combat the effects of invasive species, fire, and human activities on habitat change.

    The goal of this project is to design and execute a field study to estimate raptor occurrence and habitat use in the NCA. REU-RR students will be mentored through the research steps associated with study design, selection of field procedures for at least two types of topography and vegetation environments, gathering field data, data management, analysis, and interpretation and reporting of results. The basic analysis procedures will be occupancy estimation and modeling using Program Presence or Program Mark. We will test hypotheses about the effects of time of observation and extent of sample plots on probability of detection and estimates of occupancy. This project includes collaboration with DBS faculty and staff.

    Dr. Julie Heath’s Project

    The effects of global change on raptor populations

    Human activities are driving rapid changes in climate and land use (e.g., increased suburban sprawl and recreation in wild areas) and these human-induced changes are affecting avian life histories and population ecology. In southwest Idaho, minimum winter temperatures have warmed significantly over the past 20 years and the number of American kestrels (Falco sparverius) over-wintering in Idaho has significantly increased. Over-wintering kestrels nest earlier in the breeding season than migrant kestrels and are likely to have higher reproductive success because the timing of reproduction has important implications for local fitness (i.e., nestlings hatched early in the season have a higher probability of survival and recruitment than nestlings hatched later in the season). Also, during the last 20 years, American kestrel nesting phenology has advanced by ~28 days.

    The goal of this project is to work with an American kestrel nest box population that has been studied since 1987 to study the effects of global change on population ecology. Potential investigations include: 1) Examining the physiological differences between over-wintering and migrant birds; 2) Determining the costs or trade-offs of over-wintering near Idaho breeding areas; and 3) Exploring endogenous and exogenous factors that contribute to the seasonal decline in fecundity. Visits to kestrel nest boxes are safe and dependable so that we can quickly train students on how to handle birds, minimize investigator disturbance, accurately collect and record data, and obtain an appropriate sample size. The extensive history of research on this population, covering a broad range of topics, provides a rich background that will help to develop new ideas for student research. Given the increasing importance in understanding human impacts on biological systems, participation will provide students experience with subject matter and research questions that they are likely to encounter in future academic or professional work.

    Dr. Jim Smith’s Project

    Raptor population genetics

    Dr. Smith’s laboratory focuses on molecular approaches to addressing evolutionary questions. Advances in the past 20+ years have enabled the use of DNA to rapidly answer many important biological questions in a cost-effective manner. Among these are questions relating to gene flow, population structure, species boundaries, source of migrants, and identifying species using DNA barcoding, all of which can be applied to raptor biology.

    The goal of this project is to conduct population genetic studies of raptors using microsatellite markers that have already been developed for American kestrels, burrowing owls, barn owls, and western screech-owls. Many raptor species are also stressed with endo- or ectoparasites that are often difficult to identify to species. Thus, I will also help mentor REU-RR participants in collaboration to identify parasites using DNA barcoding. DNA can be extracted from either blood or feather samples and screened for potential parasites by either using general markers (common ribosomal or mitochondrial DNA markers) or by using markers specific for parasites. REU-RR participants could engage in any of several investigations. For example, a student with a strong interest in population genetics could analyze numerous blood samples already collected for burrowing owls. In turn, a student could gain experience in field and laboratory techniques by spending time with one mentor to learn field techniques and sample collection and then spend the remaining time conducting DNA analyses. All REU-RR participants under my direction, regardless of their focus, will be given detailed and personal instruction on each of the techniques to be employed (DNA extraction, PCR amplification, running gels, scoring data, and data analysis and interpretation).

    Dr. Rick Watson and Russell Throrstrom’s Project

    Raptor Mortality at Wind Farms

    Wind energy has emerged as a promising alternative to fossil fuels, yet the impacts of wind farms on wildlife, especially large birds of prey, are still being discovered and quantified.  The Peregrine Fund is conducting an assessment of raptor mortality at a wind farm located near Boise on the edge of the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.  This project aims to quantify turbine strike mortality and other causes of mortality of raptors, other birds, and bats.  During the summer of 2014, the student will have an opportunity to conduct bird and bat mortality surveys at wind turbines, record raptors within the wind farm area including likely Golden Eagles, and analyze fatality data collected since 2012 in relation to location, season, and weather parameters.  Time permitting, bat acoustical detection methods will be demonstrated and the student will have an opportunity to analyze bat activity in relation to location, season, and weather.  Both data sets will help inform management strategies to minimize wind farm mortality and mitigate for mortality that may be unavoidable.

     

  • REU-Raptor Research Benefits for Participants

    • IMG_0437

      Student Research Conference

      REU-RR participants present the results of their research during an interdisciplinary undergraduate research conference.

    • D_1406_022_023

      Hands-on Research

      REU-RR participants gain hands on research experience with birds of prey and their habitats.

    • NCA

      Snake River Birds of Prey Area

      REU-RR participants will have opportunity to work within the world-famous Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

    • IMG_1117

      Osprey Banding

      REU Student with nestling Osprey near Lake Cascade, Idaho

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      Ferruginous Hawks

      Banding Ferruginous Hawks in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Area

    • IMG_1071

      Osprey Banding

      Osprey Banding near Cascade, Idaho

    • DSCN3184

      Climbing Seminar

      Learning climbing techniques to access raptor nests

    • IMG_0762

      Ferruginous Hawks

      Ornithological Research


    Our summer research program is an excellent way for students to gain skills and prepare for graduate school and a career in a STEM field.  In addition to the research experiences and professional development opportunities afforded by REU-RR, each participant will also receive:

    1. A stipend of $5,000
    2. Campus housing with internet access
    3. A supplement for purchase of some meals, and
    4. Travel expenses to and from Boise

     

     

    For additional information or if you have questions, please contact:
    Dr. Jim Belthoff, REU-RR
    Department of Biological Sciences and
    Raptor Research Center
    Boise State University
    Boise, ID 83725
    Email: reu-rr@boisestate.edu

  • APPLICATIONS FOR SUMMER 2015 WILL OPEN AROUND MID-DECEMBER 2014 AND BE DUE AROUND MID-FEBRUARY 2015 (Deadline TBD).  Please check back in December for Instructions on applying for the Summer 2015 Program

    We welcome applications from students interested in a variety of biological disciplines who are interested in field or laboratory research.  We are especially interested in receiving applications from groups underrepresented in science (i.e., women and racial minorities), first generation college students, persons with disabilities, those returning from military service, and students from institutions where research opportunities in STEM are limited.

    Eligibility:
    To be eligible for the REU-RR program, you must:

    1. Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
    2. Not be graduating with your undergraduate degree until at least Fall 2014
    3. Be a full-time college or university student, and
    4. Be available for full-time program participation and research during the 10-week summer program from May 25 – August 1, 2014 (or dates close to these).

    Summer 2015 Application Instructions for REU-Raptor Research:

    To apply to our program you must complete Step 1 and Step 2 below:

     1.  Complete the online application by the February 16, 2015 priority deadline.

    The online application requests the following information (which should be assembled prior to starting the form):

    • Contact information
    • Academic information that includes colleges/universities attended, major, year in school, expected graduation date, GPA (overall and science/math), and grades for up to 10 science/math courses.
    • An electronic copy of college transcripts (unofficial is suitable) that includes Fall 2013 grades and Spring 2014 classes for which you are registered.
    • Education and career plans.
    • Demographic and background information, including citizenship status, race/ethnicity, military experience, and parent/guardian education information.
    • Two short essays (each no more than 300 words) that describe 1) why you want to participate and what you expect to get out of the program, and 2) any prior relevant experience (e.g., research, laboratory classes, employment, etc.). We suggest preparing your essays in advance using word processing software and then copying the text into the form when you are ready to submit the application.

    The online application form for summer 2015 will be available starting in mid-December 2014:

     

    2. Request two letters of reference from academic faculty.

    • At least one of the references must be able to comment on your potential for independent research. Both should attempt to comment on your interest in science, motivation, work ethic, etc.
    • Request that the reference providers submit their letters/comments at the following website:

                                                      https://orgsync.com/79452/forms/92246

    •  Request that the letters be submitted by the February 16, 2015 deadline.

     

    Applications received on or before February 17, 2014 will be given priority.  Late applications may be considered if there are still openings in the program.  Any questions should be directed to Dr. Jim Belthoff via the contact information below. Email correspondence is preferred.

     Dr. Jim Belthoff
    Department of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center
    Boise State University
    Boise, ID 83725
    Email: REU-RR@boisestate.edu
    Website: http://biology.boisestate.edu/reu