Animal Migration


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Jeff Kelly

Jeff Kelly
Director of the Oklahoma Biological Survey and Professor of Biology

Oklahoma Biological Survey
University of Oklahoma
111 E. Chesapeake Street
Norman, OK 73019

Phone: 405-325-2440
Fax: 405-325-7702

Aeroecology is an emerging interdisciplinary area of research focused on life in the atmosphere. Society is rapidly increasing its use of the lower atmosphere (aka aerosphere) for energy development, transportation, and communication. As use of the aerosphere grows, so do the frequency of human-wildlife conflicts in this habitat and societal concerns over these conflicts. Understanding interactions between flying animals and human infrastructure and societal concerns they create requires knowledge developed at the interface of biology, meteorology, geography, anthropology, communication, and computer science. To advance our understanding at this interface, I am working with an interdisciplinary team to train graduate students at this interface through an NSF-funded National Research Traineeship program in Aeroecology.

Avian migration is one of Earth’s most amazing aerial phenomena. Because of their unusual life histories, migratory animals are key indicators of global ecological change. Migrant animals create unique links among terrestrial and aerial environments from local to continental scales. The unique combination of their relatively small body size and long-distance movements also make these migrants fantastic sensors of the environment and very valuable indicators of human impacts at large spatial scales.

Tracking individual migrants has become commonplace due to impressive miniaturization of tracking technology. While these devices provide dramatic insights into the lives of individual migrants, they do not tell us much about the mass flow of migration systems or how those systems are impacted by global change. To understand animal migration as a macroscale phenomenon, we have focused on using weather surveillance radars. While radar is the most effective means of measuring bulk migration, creating efficient workflows for processing radar data into biologically meaningful data remains a primary challenge for the field of radar aeroecology.

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