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REU-RR Potential Projects

Following are examples of potential projects for REU-Raptor Research participants listed with potential mentors. Some mentors may not have openings each year for REU participants, some may have several openings in a given year, and some research mentors with raptor biology expertise who are not listed below may participate. An REU participant’s project may include one or more of these or others not listed, depending upon the student’s and mentors’ interests at the time of selection.

List of Potential Mentors and Their Projects

Dr. David Anderson

Professional Title:

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

Potential Project:

REU students learning climbing techniques in order to access raptor nests

Prey density and patterns of gyrfalcon occupancy and productivity on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska

Participating in a study of prey density and patterns of gyrfalcon occupancy and productivity on the Seward Peninsula in Alaska through a combination of site visits and follow-up Boise-based analyses to further our understanding of climate change effects on the biota.

Dr. Jim Belthoff

Professional Titles:

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Boise State University

Interim Director, Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

REU-Raptor Research Project Director

Pursuits: Dr. Belthoff’s recent publications

Potential Projects:

Jim Belthoff holding a burrowing owl in the field, photo by John Kelly

Roadway mortality of barn owls along an interstate highway: Examining the efficacy of ‘pole barriers’ to alter the flight of barn owls near roads to reduce vehicle collisions in southern Idaho, which has the highest roadway mortality rates reported worldwide.

Study of nest box population of barn owls: Pursuing projects focused on integrative pest management, ranging behavior, and ecology in urban and rural environments facilitated by the study of a nest box population of barn owls.

Host-ectoparasite relationships in burrowing owls: Advancing ongoing research on host-ectoparasite relationships in burrowing owls by examining (1) how fleas alter the immune system of owls, (2) how fleas infesting burrowing owls differ from fleas on more typical carnivore hosts, (3) the genetic population structuring of fleas on burrowing owls to understand the effects of owl movements on ectoparasites, and (4) how the owls acquire fleas.

Dr. Jen Cruz

Professional Title:

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Boise State University

Pursuits: Quantitative Conservation Lab and Dr. Cruz’s selected works

Potential Projects:

Jen Cruz holding her dog

• Evaluating the potential for high visitor use to affect competitive interactions between Great Horned Owls and Mexican Spotted Owls in the Grand Canyon National Park.

• Evaluating potential benefits of plant community restoration on predators (i.e., Prairie Falcons) and their main prey (Piute ground squirrels) at the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA.

Dr. Julie Heath

Professional Title:

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

Pursuits: Heath Lab, the Full Cycle Phenology Project, and Dr. Heath’s recent publications

Potential Projects:

Julie Heath with bird in hand

Testing mechanisms of Bergmann’s Rule in the American kestrel: Testing mechanisms of Bergmann’s Rule–the positive relationship between body size and latitude–by leveraging a unique morphometric dataset for the American kestrel to investigate how aspects of body size are influenced by latitude, climate, and other ecological factors.

How does migration strategy affect telomeres and senescence of American kestrels? Investigating how migration strategies, specifically the relative stress and energetic demands of migration versus residency as wintering strategies, affect telomeres and senescence of American kestrels.

Greg Kaltenecker

Professional Title:

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

Potential Projects:

Greg Kaltenecker and child holding a bird

Breeding ecology of northern goshawks in the northern Great Basin

• Studying the importance of annual variation in prey availability, genetic population structure, demography, impacts of endo- and ectoparasites, and effects of human disturbance on northern goshawks nestling health and survival in the northern Great Basin.

• Using long-term data sets to address novel questions on predator-prey dynamics, demography, and/or aspects of northern goshawk nesting ecology.

Dr. Todd Katzner

Professional Titles:

Affiliate Faculty, Raptor Research Center, Boise State University

U.S. Geological Survey Supervisory Research Wildlife Biologist – USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center

Potential Projects:

Todd Katzner with bird in hand

Avian interactions with renewable energy development: Predicting birds’ risks from wind energy development by comparing the flight altitude response of golden and bald eagles to evaluate similarity in their behavior and to understand the extent to which either species can reasonably serve as a proxy for the other when mapping risk to birds.

Interactions between wildlife and humans: Collecting data to study questions related to distribution, abundance, health, and behavior of wildlife on the landscape and how those patterns are influenced by human activity.

Dusty Perkins

Professional Titles:

Affiliate Research Scientist, Boise State University

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Life Sciences, College of Western Idaho

Potential Projects:

Dusty Perkins holding an osprey

Osprey pair on a nestModeling osprey and ferruginous hawk habitat suitability in Idaho

• Evaluating factors that affect osprey habitat suitability in a managed reservoir system and human-dominated ecosystem in central Idaho using field techniques, geospatial analyses, and molecular biology.

• Studying ferruginous hawk behavior and ecology within the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

Dr. Sharon Poessel

Professional Title:

Potential Project:

Sharon Poessel with bird in hand.

California condor behavior: Understanding flight patterns, foraging behavior, and distribution of the critically endangered California condor with the goal of promoting condor conservation.

• Studying movements, behavior, habitat use, and spatial ecology of wildlife.

Dr. Sarah Shulwitz

Professional Title:

Director, The Peregrine Fund‘s American Kestrel Partnership

Potential Project:

Sarah Schulwitz holding a kestrel

American kestrel on a nesting boxNest box management regimes and American kestrels

Testing the consequences on population trends across North America of various artificial nest box management regimes for American kestrels, specifically examining influences on both occupancy and local abundance of American kestrels. Project work may involve installing and monitoring nest boxes, conducting surveys, and empirically testing results.

Dr. Jim Smith

Professional Title:

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Boise State University

Potential Projects:

• Studying northern goshawk genetic population structure using molecular laboratory approaches.

• Using DNA approaches to elucidate parentage in burrowing owls in a study of mating systems.

• Addressing questions relating to gene flow, population structure, species boundaries, source of migrants, and species identification using DNA barcoding, all of which can be applied to raptor biology.

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