MCLA Students Present Research at the 2019 Wilson Ornithological Society Meeting

January 31, 2020

MCLA Noah Hannah Wilson Society

Hannah Wait ‘21 and Noah Henkenius ’20 attended the Wilson Ornithological Society's annual meeting in Cape May, N.J., last fall--and got some birding time in as well. (Cape May, located on a peninsula, is internationally famous for being a migratory corridor for songbirds, raptors, and woodcock.)

For those who study birds, the annual meeting of the Wilson Ornithological Society is a chance to gather and share research with other professionals while also fitting in some prime birding time. For Hannah Wait ‘21 and Noah Henkenius ’20, it was also a way to network, present research, and meet professors whose work they have cited.

MCLA Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Daniel Shustack traveled with Henkenius and Wait to the 2019 conference, with travel funding provided by the MCLA Undergraduate Research Program. Shustack said Henkenius and Wait, both environmental studies majors, had each put in more than a year of work on the research they submitted to the conference. Their work was accepted and each student presented a poster at the event — Wait on research she and Shustack conducted on the “Morphology of Junco hyemalis (Dark-eyed juncos) in Western Massachusetts” and Henkenius on research he and Shustack conducted on the “Presence and Abundance of Avian Ticks on Breeding Forest Birds in the Northern Berkshires, MA.”

“Going to this conference fits into their career interests and aspirations,” said Shustack. “This is like the training ground to become field researchers.” He said around 100 people from across the U.S. attend each year, and it’s a chance for students to meet potential graduate advisors, and to learn about career and research opportunities. 

Each year, the Society, in collaboration with the Association of Field Ornithologists, holds its conference at a location known for its bird populations. Last year’s meetup, on October 27–30, 2019, was held at the Grand Hotel of Cape May, in Cape May, N.J. The city, located on a peninsula, is internationally famous for being a migratory corridor for songbirds, raptors, and woodcock. 

Henkenius said he met a lot of interesting people at the conference, including someone from Maine who conducted a study similar to his. “I had read their report and I was excited to meet someone in person that I had cited,” he said. In between events, Henkenius said he, Shustack, and Wait even got to do some birding on the beach.

At the conference, Wait was recognized for winning the Jed Burt Undergraduate Mentoring Grant for the work she and Shustack did establishing migratory connectivity of overwintering slate-colored juncos using stable isotopes.

The Wilson Society awarded Henkenius a competitive travel scholarship to help cover his cost of attendance. “It made me feel there was some value to my work,” Henkenius said. “That they wanted me to be there and supported my work.”


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