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Research Guides

American CrowThere are many faculty at the University of Washington who study birds as a major focus of their work, spanning everything from conservation to neurobiology. Here we have highlighted some of researchers who specialize in birds at the University of Washington.

Michael Beecher, Dept. of Psychology

Dr. Beecher’s work focuses on the function and development of bird song and the neurobiology of learning in Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Currently the Beecher lab is focusing on the social factors of song learning.

Dr. Beecher's faculty profile

P. Dee Boersma, Dept. of Biology

A leading expert on penguin ecology and conservation, Dr. Boersma directs the Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, co-chairs the International Union for the Conservation of Nature SSC Penguin Specialist Group, and leads research on Magellanic Penguins as a scientific fellow for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dr. Boersma's faculty profile

Eliot Brenowitz, Depts. of Psychology & Biology

Dr. Brenowitz studies plasticity in the song control system in the brains of songbirds. His work investigates the role that new neurons play in behavioral plasticity, the factors that regulate the recruitment of new neurons, and the relationship between neuronal death and birth in the adult song control system.

Brenowitz Lab

Sarah Converse, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Dr. Converse is the Unit Leader of the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Her work focuses on conservation strategies and management of fish, wildlife, and seabird populations.

Quantitative Conservation Lab, led by Dr. Converse

Beth Gardner, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Dr. Gardner runs the Quantitative Ecology Lab, where she and her team develop quantitative methods for studying wildlife, fish, and plant populations around the world. Currently the lab is working on developing modeling techniques for waterbird population distribution in the Great Lakes.

Quantitative Ecology Lab

Renée Ha, Dept. of Psychology

Dr. Ha leads the Rota Avian Behavioral Ecology Program. Her lab is investigating the causes of the decline of the avian fauna of Pacific island of Rota, especially the Mariana crow (Corvus kubaryi) and the Rota White-eye (Zosterops rotensis). This work encompasses in-depth study of the island’s entire ecosystem.

Rota Avian Behavioral Ecology Program

George Hunt, School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences

Dr. Hunt focuses on how climate variability affects polar marine ecosystems. He has studied topics ranging from the ecology of seabirds to the types of conditions that lead to high concentrations of prey in the ocean at depths available to seabirds for foraging. He is currently working on analyzing how distributions of seabirds have changed in the last 40 years.

Dr. Hunt's faculty profile

John Klicka, Dept. of Biology

Dr. Klicka is the Curator of Ornithology at the Burke Museum of Natural History. He studies the phylogenetics and evolution of New World Birds, primarily songbirds, using a variety of morphological, behavioral, and biogeographical characteristics.

Klicka Lab

John Marzluff, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Dr. Marzluff studies the relationships between birds and humans, including how habitat fragmentation and urbanization affect bird populations, and how birds influence human culture and art. He primarily focuses on corvids—ravens, crows, and jays.

Avian Conservation Lab

Julia Parrish, Dept. of Biology & School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences

Dr. Parrish focuses on seabird ecology and marine conservation. She runs the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), a large-scale citizen science project where volunteers collect data on beaches all along the west coast of North America. This information contributes to knowledge of the ecology, conservation, and resource management of coastlines.

COASST website

David J. Perkel, Dept. of Biology & Otolaryngology

Dr. Perkel studies the neural mechanisms of vocal learning in songbirds. His lab’s work focuses on such topics as the mechanisms of pattern generation, the evolutionary origin, structure, and function of the anterior forebrain pathway in songbirds.

Dr. Perkel's faculty profile
Perkel Lab

Burke Museum Research Collection

The Burke Museum's Ornithology collection contains specimens in the form of study skins, spread wings, skeletons, egg sets, nests and frozen tissue samples: approximately 157,250 specimens from around the world. They are used by researchers studying bird-related topics, such as adaptations, migratory patterns, and morphology. Isotope analysis of feathers from specimens collected at different decades can show changes in diet over time.

Visit the Burke's Ornithology webpage