Public Release: 

OU team to develop new methods to track bird migration and adaptability

University of Oklahoma


IMAGE: Novel tracking devices will be attached to the migratory birds and will reveal the environments where the birds fly while providing insights into the dynamics of the lower atmosphere. view more 

Credit: University of Oklahoma

A University of Oklahoma research team of biologists and meteorologists will develop and employ advanced methods to monitor birds during migratory flights and assess the atmospheric conditions in which they fly. The project will involve unmanned aerial vehicles as well as novel tracking devices developed by OU researchers. The devices will be attached to migratory birds and will reveal the environments experienced by birds in flight and provide new insights into the dynamics of the lower atmosphere.

"The role of the atmosphere in migration behaviors of animals is underrepresented and understudied. As our climate changes, so will the prevailing wind patterns that animals rely on to reach their migratory destinations. This project combines the interest and ability of biologists and meteorologists to understand changes in these aerial habitats and the consequences for migratory birds," Jeffrey F. Kelly, academic director, Corix Institute.

Kelly and other team members Eli S. Bridge, professor, Oklahoma Biological Survey; Phillip B. Chilson, professor, OU School of Meteorology; and Phillip M. Stepanian, postdoctoral research fellow, Corix Plains Institute; will combine these new observations with currently underused weather radar data from across the country, which includes massive amounts of data on migrating birds, bats and insects as they fly over the countryside. This combination of new and existing data will yield novel insight into migrant behavior within their changing atmospheric habitats.

This multidisciplinary team will develop and test different ways to enhance communication, collaboration and teamwork among the next generation of students and teachers, and communicate to the public how the changing environment influences the timing of migration over and through their communities. Local workshops conducted in schools and community centers will foster "citizen science" to contribute to this national effort, and teach landowners local climate adaptation strategies.

The National Science Foundation awarded a $1 million grant for the research entitled, "RoL: FELS: RAISE: Rules That Govern Seasonal Migration of Birds Through the Air." For more information about this project, contact Professor Kelly at


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