Migratory Birds Study Receives $1.3 Million from CFI

January 21, 2013 - News Release

A University of Guelph professor will use everything from isotopes and radar to the International Space Station (ISS) to track migratory birds as part of a new $1.3-million research project.

Integrative biology professor Ryan Norris will work with Canadian and German researchers to learn more about the migratory patterns of birds and better understand how environmental changes and human actions impact wildlife.

“This will be the most extensive and intensive study of migratory birds ever undertaken in Canada,” Norris said.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) recently announced an investment in the Advanced Facility for Avian Research, including more than $400,000 to support Norris’s part in the project. The facility is based at the University of Western Ontario.

“My colleagues and I are grateful that the CFI saw the value in this important research initiative,” said Norris, who is well-known for his research on the migration patterns of insects and birds. “We are using the latest technology, which will allow us to strengthen our knowledge of birds and their migration patterns.”

The funding will allow the researchers to purchase infrastructure to study connections among breeding, migrating and wintering locations for all of Canada’s birds by 2030. About 80 per cent of Canada’s birds are migratory, and many species have been declining for decades.

The team, including Norris and pathobiology professor Claire Jardine, will use radio-telemetry receivers to monitor marked birds on large regional scales. Norris will also analyze feather isotopes to track birds between Canada’s boreal forest and their tropical wintering grounds. A new ICARUS global tracking system, which will be deployed on the ISS in 2014, will provide unprecedented details on the movements of birds and other animals across the globe. Researchers will use radar to measure wind direction, speed and altitude of aerial fauna and track tagged individuals in the air. They will also look at disease ecology, physiology and behaviour.

“We expect to see Canada benefit in environmental quality and biodiversity conservation and the training of individuals to utilize this advanced equipment,” Norris said.

Along with Jardine, the researchers hope to better understand and predict the emergence of zoonotic diseases by tracking both regional and large-scale movements of migratory birds.

For more information:
Ryan Norris, PhD
519-824-4120 x56300
519-824-4120 x54582

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or kgonsalves@uoguelph.ca.

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