Featured Project

September 5, 2018

Where do flammulated owls go in the winter?

The Flammulated Owl is a small, nocturnal owl that lives in tree holes. This group of scientists has been studying this owl for 35 years to observe changes in ponderosa pine forests across North America.

Professor Brian Linkhart mimics owl calls and teaches his students how to mimic owl calls so that the owls might mistake his students for owls at night. When the owls respond, they use this signal to identify owl territories. During the day, they go back to find the tree cavities and one by one check for nests and band the owls.

This year, the team purchased 8 GPS PinPoint devices to attach to owls. They need important funding to help cover gas, lodging, food, and GPS attachments to gather more data.

On average, the team is able to attach one GPS device to an owl each week, usually spending five nights in a row attempting to capture owls from dusk until the wee hours of the morning. When not directly attaching GPS devices, they are observing birds from all across the study site as they prepare for migration. 

Featured Results

Crowdfunded scientific discoveries

New distinctive Pacific variety of Aspen found

In early 2015, 68 Experiment backers pitched $6,100 to support the study of mysterious stands of isolated aspen trees in the Willamette Valley, whose origin was unknown. The original hypothesis was that the trees were carried from Montana by floods nearly 15,000 years ago during the last ice age.

Steven Strauss at Oregon State University used the funding to gather data and do some DNA sequencing to figure out where the "lost aspens" came from. Using the DNA sequences from 183 individual trees, they constructed phylogenomic lineages for the Populus tremuloides forests.

Last week, the results were released as a pre-print in PeerJ and is also undergoing peer-review in a scientific journal. The core results demonstrate that the Willamette Valley aspen is part of a distinctive Pacific variety, which was previously unknown to science.

Their conclusions suggest that the aspens likely weren't carried by melting glacial floodwaters, as originally theorized. The project has added valuable information to the story of Earth's last ice age, back 11,000 years ago when Alaska and Russia were connected by a land bridge.

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