Women on the Move: Technology and Animal Tracking, Part II: Sky
>>Erika: Hello everyone! Welcome! Welcome! We're so excited to share with you today Women on the Move: Technology and Animal Tracking! And all week long we are celebrating Earth Day and we're going to introduce you to some amazing Smithsonian women in science, technology, engineering, math, and sometimes the arts too known as STEM or STEAM. So our guest scientists this week track animals all across different ecosystems: land, sea, and sky. Today's is all about birds. So we're going to soar into how, and why, scientists track these avian, or bird, species. My name is Erika, I’m an educator at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, my pronouns are she/her, and I’m going to be your host for today. This is the second webinar out of a series of three leading up to Earth Day this Friday,
so we hope you'll celebrate with us again. This series was made possible by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, and is a collaborative event between the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. So during this program you're going to gain knowledge of wildlife and wild places, understand the role of a couple of Smithsonian women in STEM, and learn how tracking is saving birds. So once again, welcome to Women on the Move: Technology and Animal Tracking. I’m so thrilled to welcome Dr. Autumn-Lynn Harrison to the program. Hi Autumn-Lynn, and welcome. Would you like to introduce yourself? >>Autumn-Lynn: Thank you so much for having me here. I’m excited for everyone on the line. I am Autumn-Lynn Harrison,
a research ecologist at the Migratory Bird Center which is part of Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, and I love my job! >>Erika: That's awesome! Well, I love the introduction that you love your job as well. Thank you for sharing that. Can you break down research ecology for us a little bit? That might be a new career for some people. >>Autumn-Lynn: Sure. It's really, at its heart about solving mysteries. Solving the mysteries about animals. What types of food do they like to eat? Where do they go? Where do they nest? Where do they spend the winter? And then we use the information that we learned to help save birds. >>Erika: Alright, so can you tell us, um, what species you're researching right now? >>Autumn-Lynn: Sure, I am... I’m really a marine ecologist so I specialize on birds that fly and use the ocean
and, um, and also birds that like to go to the beach so seabird and shorebird species. These include black-bellied plover, a shorebird, a long-billed curlew is another shorebird, three related species of jaegers which are seabirds and they're really acrobatic beautiful seabirds, and then Arctic terns that make the longest migration in the world of any animal, and the brown pelican! >>Erika: Wow, incredible! So you said that these are all birds that live near water, they're shorebirds and seabirds. Did that just happen or is that, uh, is it a personal interest, part of your job? What was it? >>Autumn-Lynn: It's really a personal interest. I grew up along the Chesapeake Bay on the Eastern shore of Maryland, for you Marylanders out there in the audience. If anyone's from Eastern shore I would love to hear about it in the chat. So I grew up around water and I studied
tropical marine ecology on coral reefs in Australia for my masters, but then moved to ocean animals for my PhD work. >>Erika: Wow, that's incredible! And in our first program of this series we heard from Kim and Sarah, two scientists that study species that live in water like river herring and whales, and we heard about some of the challenges to studying those species. Finding animals around water, having waterproof technology. I imagine that as you're studying seabirds and shorebirds there must be some similar challenges. What are some of the unique challenges you face with your research? >>Autumn-Lynn: There are similar challenges. Um, the birds I study travel around the world during the
year, and I love whales too, but birds are the record setters. They're the champions. They make the longest migrations so we need to keep technology working during that whole entire time. And, one of the best things about being a bird is that, um, those of you that chose tropical locations or Arctic or oceans, birds live in all of those habitats! Some individuals visit all of them during the year, um, so it's a great thing to be a bird. Brown pelicans from the Chesapeake Bay also fly to Cuba as you'll see,
so I’m really delighted to see a person from Cuba in the audience today. But we usually can't follow birds during their entire migration across continents, we can't keep up with them with a set of binoculars or a film camera, so studying birds requires us to use really secret agent tools like tracking devices to better understand them and the places that they go that may need our help. >>Erika: Well that's incredible, and I would absolutely love to use some secret agent tools to help track animals - that sounds like a ton of fun! So you're studying migratory birds, you mentioned that they go to some of the places where we have people tuning in from like Cuba and, um, and I know California as well, and you mentioned the Arctic tern having the longest migration. So can you tell us a little bit more about these migratory birds? They're connecting us as they travel, right? >>Autumn-Lynn: They are, um, I really think of them as kind of pen pals that travel from one country to another, one backyard to another, that we share throughout their migration. So we're sending our pen pals back and forth, um, every year from North to South and then back South to North. And, um, a lot of the birds that I study are from Alaska, or California, or Maryland,
but then they visit maybe 30 different countries during their migration. So they're really world travelers that connect all of us and make us really think how, how much we share even though we may live in different states or countries. >>Erika: That's incredible and, and why are they migrating? >>Autumn-Lynn: It's a good question and something to think about when you get hungry and you open that refrigerator, or you ask mom and dad what's for lunch, and you don't have anything. You have to go to the store
to get some food! And birds do the same thing, although it's on a bigger scale so they may find just the right habitat for them to nest and raise their chicks, to make sure they don't get gobbled up by a predator, but that may not be the same place as it's good to spend the rest of the year. Birds like this black-bellied plover that find the perfect habitat to raise a chick and make a nest in the Arctic of Alaska, but then the ice comes, the ocean freezes, it gets cold and so they leave on a migration to find better habitat for food for the rest of the year. >>Erika: Incredible, so are all of these different colors on the map different birds and their travel routes? >>Dr. Autumn-Lynn: Yes, that's right! These are all tracks, we call them, that were recorded by a tracking tag attached to the birds and every different color is a different individual, and you see this one bird that flew all the way to Peru that was a female. That was a girl black-bellied plover and we recorded her migration
for two years in a row all the way to Peru. >>Erika: Wow, that's incredible. And, um, a note about the female black-bellied plover, is that what we're looking at here? Because that bird does not have a black belly! >>Autumn-Lynn: This is, this is another place where secret agent tools come into play. Um, birds molt their feathers at different times during the year. So they put on a special outfit just for their nesting season so they look really you know beautiful, or handsome, and during the rest of the year they don't need that nice James Bond tuxedo, uh, like you see here. This is a male on the breeding ground. So the bird in the previous slide had, um, actually molted into what we call non-breeding plumage or non-breeding feathers where when you'll see them on the beaches of Texas or the beaches of California or even Maryland a lot of times they look like this. So you can't tell the difference between a male
or a female outside of the nesting season. >>Erika: Oh great, and so you've already started to talk about some of these tags that are helping you with this data so that we can see these maps and all these routes. Can you tell us a little bit about those secret agent tools? What is a tracking device? What does it do? >>Autumn-Lynn: Sure! Would you like to see one now? >>Erika: Yes! >>Autumn-Lynn: I, I have a few with me so, that... one of the smallest secret agent tools that I use is only this big, if you can see it, and it's about the same size as the Jelly Belly - thanks mom and dad for my Easter jelly beans that helped me in my job today! Um, but this is a tiny little tag that we typically attach to a band around the leg of a bird, so this one's really small. But let's contrast that to a tag that we might use for a really large bird, like a pelican, um, this is a satellite tag that has a solar panel on top and then it's sloped, um, in the front so that when the pelican dives the water just goes right off and it reduces the drag on the birds. So this is, uh, for a really big bird; a bird that looks like a dinosaur! >>Erika: That's incredible! And I’d love for everyone to help us engineer a tracking device so we do have another poll, um, we want to know what you would consider if you were designing a good tracking device for a bird. So let's see here, so would you, um, think about it being light weight?
Is that important for a bird? Should it be able to get wet? Should it be able to be near salt? Able to submerge, or go under water? Or able to be in extreme temperatures? What do you think? I’ll give everyone a minute to take a look. And I love that we already saw some examples with the shape of the tracking device. And we're calling them tracking devices, is it okay to call them both that or a tag? >>Autumn-Lynn: We often use tag for a shorthand, but it's not always clear to everyone what that is, but in the field we say ‘Do you have the tag? Is the tag on the bird?’ So that's definitely the shorthand. >>Erika: Great. Okay, so I’m gonna end this poll in just a second. Okay, let's see. So it looks like if people were thinking about birds and engineering a device they
would mostly think about it being light weight, able to get wet, and able to submerge or go underwater. What do you think about all of these features? What's important for the birds you work with? >>Autumn-Lynn: They are all important! We always try to use a light weight tag as light of weight tag as we can to still do a study, um, that... that we're interested in. But all of those features for a seabird are really important. Getting wet, being near salt, because salt can corrode metals. And for some birds that dive the ability to go underwater, you want that tag to not stop working like your cell phone if you drop it in the pool. >>Erika: Incredible, and I know that we're going to see one of the birds that you work with in just a little while so we're getting ready to maybe see who that might be. Uhm, but looking at these devices again and you are showing some of the size difference, it looks like there's no one size fits all for a bird. 115 00:12:11,600 --> 00:12:17,760 >>Autumn-Lynn: No it's completely custom for each species and we even actually make some of the attachment
devices ourselves, as a scientist so I’ll talk about that a little bit later. But yeah there's no one-size-fits-all just like there's no one size of bird. >>Erika: So can you tell us about a couple different tracking devices, um, or tags? Can you tell us maybe a couple examples of some of those size differences? >>Autumn-Lynn: Sure, and I’ll explain a little bit of difference of how they work too! And this tiny little tag, we call it a light-level geolocator, and there's a really nice picture of one that is attached to a yellow band on the leg of an Arctic tern. That's a tag that I attached to this Arctic tern in Alaska. They're really tiny, they're not very expensive, as far as scientific equipment goes, so they're about 150 or 200 dollars a piece, and they enable us to study small bird species like Arctic terns, but because they don't communicate with a satellite, they just record light and we have to use fancy nautical equations to convert light level to where the bird is on the planet.
Those positions aren't always very accurate so in a map like this we try to show that with these yellow and red blobs around our predicted pathway for the bird. So a lot of math goes into taking the data off of this little tag and getting a map like this to estimate where the bird was >>Erika: Wow so that's a lot of work to gather that data! And what about some of the satellite tags that we were looking at, what would those be used for? >>Autumn-Lynn: So a satellite tag like this, this is what's shown, this is about the weight of a US nickel, so a nickel shown in the picture here. And this tag recharges by the sun, so this little solar panel on top keeps it charged. So we're able to track birds across multiple years, to see if they change their minds across multiple years, and this enables us also to study, uh, larger-sized birds than the tiny little light-level geolocator does.
The really fun thing about satellite tags is that they're giving us data every day, so we don't have to wait to recover a tag, recatch the bird. We get updates on our phone that says your bird is now in Cuba! So satellite tags are really fun to work with as a scientist, every day is a new discovery. >>Erika: Wow, that's incredible! So we heard about two different kinds of tags, you have these light-level geolocators that are really small like a Jelly Belly, and you're attaching those to some different types of birds, like this Arctic tern and that's giving you some type of data, and then a completely different device called a satellite tag that has so much involved in it that it's even kind of pinging, or sending you, information in real time so that you can see where these animals are. >>Autumn-Lynn: That was a perfect summary Erika, can you come write my papers please? >>Erika: I’d love
to work with you! It's great. Well we do have a guest who's waiting so I would like to welcome them soon too, but before we do, I want everyone to guess who you've got with you. Here we go, so who am I? Um, we have a couple different clues for you. So first one is that Autumn-Lynn, uh, does track this species. So next we have that they are big enough to wear a satellite tag. So they're not teeny tiny birds.
And the next one, living close to the ocean. Some people are already getting it! The flock of this bird is called a squadron, which I think is really cool.And last clue, I have a large throat pouch. I think that's giving it away, but I’m going to turn it over to you Kaleigh, can you show us who you have with you? >>Kayleigh: Huey! Pappy! Come on birds! Oh, here's somebody coming to say hi. Huey! Pappy! Come on birds! Up here! Huey! Pappy! Oh, they're coming! >>Autumn-Lynn: I wish I could catch birds that way! >>Kayleigh: Hi birds! There they go.
>>Erika: You don’t just call them over? Huey and Pappy? >>Kayleigh: Oh here they come. There they are. These are our two male, brown pelicans. >>Autumn-Lynn: Kayleigh is making it look so easy! >>Kayleigh: Come on guys! You're doing it! So I’ve got some fish here for them. So they're eyeballing me, but the sea lions I think are making them a little bit nervous. Come on guys! Come on up! Awwww. >>Erika: Oh they're thinking about it for sure. >>Kayleigh: I think they’ll end up working their way, yeah! >>Erika: As we're waiting for them, can you tell us a little bit about that bill, because you're about to feed them, and we're... we're going to see if they come over what their bill might look like. Here they come. >>Kayleigh: I feel like they've come a little closer than that but, um, yeah so their bill is actually really unique.
Um, I don't know if you can tell from there, but they do have a pouch underneath their bill and it's really a useful tool for them because they're able to catch multiple fish at one time. So unlike, you know, your typical bird that would dive down and pick one fish out, and bring it back up, these guys will actually go down and scoop up a bunch of water, and a bunch of fish, because they generally seek schools of fish so there's usually a plentiful fish in that area. Um, and then what they'll do is, they'll tilt their head back and drain out the water and then eat the fish! >>Erika: Wow, incredible! >>Kayleigh: Their pouch is also really unique in such that, uh, it also is used for thermoregulation so their pouch actually helps cool them off when it's really hot out. Um and also it acts as a
feeding trough for their young animals, um for the young pelicans. So they'll have the fish in their mouth and they'll go over to their young and just open their mouth and let the young pelicans just pick right out! >>Erika: Wow! And, um, for living near the ocean, what other kind of adaptations do they have besides that pouch? >>Kayleigh:Yeah, so I wish they would come up but unfortunately they're just a little worried. Uhm, which is okay, they have the choice to go away if they want. This is a very safe environment
for them. Um, but their feet I would love to be able to show you. Their feet are actually very large, and webbed, um, and that's great for, um, it's a little awkward on land when you watch them walk which unfortunately I don't know if you'll be able to see that today, but when they walk on land they are a little bit awkward but those feet, I mean, you can tell right now how great they are at swimming. Um so it's just like big paddles, um, another really unique adaptation for these guys is that, um, so they dive from about 60 feet up high straight down into the water, and for most bird their size that would actually, um, kill them from the impact alone, because it'd just be such a forceful hit into the water, but these guys are designed with air sacs underneath their skin that help to cushion that blow when they hit the water. Um, so they are they are not injured at all when they hit the water because of those air sacs. Come on guys! Come on! Come get some foods! >>Erika: Wow that's incredible! >>Kayleigh: Huey is on the left and Pappy is the one further away in the back. >>Erika: Huey and Pappy! I love their names. >>Kayleigh: So they're actually named after, um, after war heroes.
I don’t quite know a whole lot about that part, but I do know that they were named after war heroes. >>Erika: Wow! And we were just hearing from, uh, Autumn-Lynn when researching them that, uh, she attaches these satellite tags to them and you're describing this diving. That's got to be something that has to sit on really tight to make sure that it's not going anywhere. >>Kayleigh: For sure!
>>Erika: Is there a way that you tell them apart besides their names and maybe how they look, as well? >>Kayleigh: Yeah, so, uh, basically in terms of how they look between these two individuals, it changes throughout the season, but right now Pappy has a very yellow head whereas Huey has a whiter head right now. 192 00:20:28,880 --> 00:20:36,880 And also Huey, um, so they both have wing injuries, um, and that's why they are here which maybe I’ll 193 00:20:36,880 --> 00:20:41,520 go into a little bit later, but Huey, because of his wing injury it sort of cocks a little bit more to the side when you see him flap his wings. >>Erika: Oh yeah we'd love to hear more, more about them! >>Kayleigh: Oh yeah that’s a great picture! Yes this is a really great picture, so on the right there is Pappy and you can tell with the yellow top of his head it's a little bit yellower. And, um, Huey is on the other side, yep, with the white head. >>Erika: And everyone watching should know that this was
them getting ready for today's program, so they were really ready, but they're having a little bit of stage fright today! >>Kayleigh: And you can see, you can see their feet in that picture really well. >>Erika: That's great, and what's around their ankles, too? >>Kayleigh: Oh! So those are bands that help to identify them. Unfortunately they, they did have colored bands one was blue and one was yellow, but just through them flopping about, they kicked them off. And we can tell them apart so we don't necessarily need them, but that was that was a very helpful way for our guests to be able to know the difference. >>Erika: Right, oh wow. So, um, the, I know the Zoo's pelicans are ambassadors for their species. So they're there, um, to teach people about their species and what, you know, we can do to help save them as well.
Can you tell us a little bit more about, you said they had some stories of their own to share? About their background. >>Kayleigh: Yeah so they actually, we aren't quite sure their age because they were brought to a rehab as adults, and, um, they were actually brought to a rehab in Florida. Um, and because they were deemed non-releasable because of their wings, they came here, came to the Zoo so they can help to educate the public about about them and the threats that they face in the wild. >>Erika: Wow. And we're celebrating Earth Day all week, but we know that animals like pelicans can always use our help. What's something our visitors can do to help them out? >>Kayleigh: Yeah so you can actually see the visitors. They really love to interact with the window with our visitors, I don't know if you can tell that, so next time you come to the zoo definitely hang out by that window because we'll get a really nice up close, um, up close, uh, view of them. But, uh, sorry about that. So in terms of, uh, threats that they
face in the wild, um, they definitely, so that was the question that you asked me, correct? >>Erika: Yes! >>Kayleigh: It's about the threats? Um, so these guys, oil spills is definitely a big one and they tend to you know, hang around where there's shipping yards, or fishing um boats and so those tend to obviously have a lot of fish near them, but unfortunately that means that there's also oil. So oil spills, it's a big one for these guys. Um DEET which is a pesticide, or not DEET, sorry, DDT which is a pesticide um, actually almost wiped these guys out. But they did, the US did put a ban on DDT pesticides so luckily that is no longer as much of a factor, although pesticides do still um, pose a threat to birds and marine mammals. So just making sure that you, like, check your, any sort of pesticide that you or your parents might use in their, um, yards to make sure that it's organic and natural can definitely help these guys out. Um, and garbage in the water is a big one. There's a lot, a lot, of garbage in the water, even if, you know, there's garbage on land it can still go in the waterways and end up in the water. So for these guys
ingesting garbage is, is a big issue and they could die from that. And fishing line is another big one that, not necessarily from ingestion, but that could also harm them but more so for entanglement. So they do get entangled in fishing line and can drown. >>Erika: Right, so I know things like balloon strings and fishing lines, we really have to be careful for with birds and, you know, avoiding those or, you know, disposing of them properly can really help to save these species. >>Kayleigh: Yeah! One really um, interesting thing that you can do, for, in terms of recycling, obviously you want to make sure to reuse, reduce, recycle any sort of garbage. Like I said, if it's on land it can still end up in the waterways.
Just do your part to really throw out, and put trash in the proper receptacle. But when it comes to fishing line, you can actually, so they don’t, they do make some recyclable versions, but a lot of fishing line is not recyclable. So one thing you can do to help with that is to cut the pieces of fishing line into six-inch pieces, and throw it out that way. So if it does end up in the waterways, um, it, hopefully they won't get entangled in it if it's only six inches. >>Erika: Great! Um, so I know uh, people are really curious about the other visitors that were near you as well. Do you have um, sea lions and pelicans living together in the same habitat? Do they get along? >>Kayleigh: They do. Yeah, we are a multi-species exhibit which is really cool. We do have five sea lions: four females
and one male, and our two male pelicans right there. Um, and yeah they, I mean they really seem to just coexist really nicely. They don't really bother each other a whole lot. If anything, the sea lions are a little bit intimidated by the pelicans for whatever reason. Um, so when we do feed the pelicans sometimes the sea lions will hang out but they're pretty good about, um, not stealing the pelican's fish because they, the pelicans too, which I, I did not mention, but I will mention now is that they have a really sharp hooked beak. So the sea lions definitely want to stay away from that. >>Erika: Are you able to show us what the food was that you were going to be feeding them? >>Kayleigh: Yeah! Of course! Um, let's see here. So these are the cups that they come in, so this is Huey's cup.
And then over here is Mr. Pappy's cup. There it is! And inside, we have, this is a piece of mackerel, um, this is actually a really large fish it's just a small piece of it, currently. And here we have the head of a herring, so this again is just a small piece. Um and then capelin, well this is the tail of a capelin, it's much smaller. But the majority of the fish that they get is, is this capelin. And here's the head of the capelin. And we fill it up to about halfway. The cup's about half full, and they get this twice a day. >>Erika: Ugh! They're missing out on a great snack, but I’m sure they'll come out right after we're done here >>Kayleigh: Oh of course, right?! The people, the public really seem to be, they're waving at them and enjoying their company for sure. >>Erika: So fun! >>Kayleigh: Can you guys see them a little bit from over there at least?
>>Erika: Yeah! >>Kayleigh: Huey! Pappy! Come on birds! Come on! Oh they might be coming! Come on birds! They're also starting up a little bit of construction in the back it sounds like. Let's see if I can get them closer, oh now they're coming! Hi birds! Hi Hugh! Hi Paps! It's okay, you can just hang out here and I’ll feed you, huh? There we go! I know! Come on! Can you see how Huey's wing is definitely a little bit more um, doesn't doesn't stand out as straight as as Pappy’s? >>Erika: Yes, and I think, um, everyone was noticing just how big they are, too. >>Kayleigh: Oh yeah, they're huge. Um, so their wingspan is actually six feet wide, um which is wider than I am tall, so that's a pretty, pretty wide wingspan. And they stand at about anywhere from three to five feet. I’d say these guys are a little bit on the shorter side, I’d say
they're closer to three feet than five, um, so yeah! >>Erika: Wow, well before we say goodbye to you Kayleigh I did want to ask about your role as a keeper, as well. How did you, um, become interested in being a keeper? >>Kayleigh: Yeah, I’ll turn it on on me, um, so I’ve always loved animals. My entire life I always loved animals. Um so I, you know, you go through the route of "Ooh do I want to be a veterinarian?" Uh, and I did. I shadowed a veterinarian and I realized I wanted to be on the awake side of things. So veterinarians they do amazing, incredible work but they do do a lot of surgeries
and, um, you know handle animals when they're sick and not feeling well, but I really wanted, I really enjoyed working with animals that were healthy and happy. Um, and so being a zookeeper I found is perfect for that and I get to really know them super well that I’m the one who usually goes to the veterinarians because I can tell just by their behavior that something's off, um which I really love about my job. Um, and yeah, I’d say that's how, that's how I ended up becoming a zookeeper. I did a internship after I graduated college.
In college I did do an animal science bachelor's degree, and then I did an internship, and just a lot of experience. You just have to get a lot of your hands on, um, volunteering, interning, um, and then, and then yeah. And landed, landed my first job at a sanctuary, and then I got hired here! >>Erika: Wow, that's incredible! Thank you so much for sharing, um, your interests. 285 00:29:28,400 --> 00:29:34,880 and your, the pelicans as much as we could see and your path as well! We appreciate you joining us! >>Kayleigh: Of course! Have a great day! >>Erika: Have a great day, Kaleigh! >>Kayleigh: Bye, guys! >>Erika: Bye! Oh Autumn-Lynn, those are HUGE birds! You work with some massive, massive birds! >>Autumn-Lynn: Yeah I like the big birds. I’ve worked on seals and sea lions too, so it was kind of a natural fit to start working on some of the larger seabird species. 289 00:29:58,320 --> 00:30:04,720S So yeah, they're pretty big when you hold... when I hold a pelican it takes up half my body. >>Erika: We're seen some of the tracking devices already and we kind of talked about engineering and what you have to think about, but I’d still love everyone to see the whole process. Can you talk us through
you know, these are massive birds and they did not want to come close for Kayleigh. How are you um going about catching a bird to put one of these you know tracking device backpacks on it? >>Autumn-Lynn: Well one of the easiest ways to catch a bird is when it's not flying. When it's actually sitting and stationary, so a lot of the birds that I study nest in the Arctic region. Um, they might find this perfect little island like here in the middle of an Arctic pond, and they make their nest on this little island. This is an Arctic turn nest. So we set a trap right around uh, right around the nest and the bird can't see it. You can't see it. It's already there in in this uh video. So there's
a trap and then it will pop open and form a bubble over the bird after it's sitting on its nest so the Arctic turns coming back to its nest and then, wait for it, there's the trap. So I was off to the side of the camera pulling a line uh once the bird was settled in. The bird didn't even notice. It keeps just sitting there incubating its eggs until I start to get up to retrieve the bird and that's when the bird starts to flap a bit. >>Erika: Wow. Okay, so this is the capture and I, it's just incredible to me how soft it looked. >>Autumn-Lynn: Yeah, this is one of my favorite ways to catch a bird because it is
um a lot of times the birds don't notice and then I can just reach in and, and hold the bird gently. I usually told the bird, you saw me put my hand on the net there and that's to keep it from flapping, to make sure that it doesn't injure itself while I’m working with it and then a nice show to the GoPro there. I’m walking in an Arctic lake and the bottom is permafrost so um I kind of sink down until it's frozen and then we use really technical tools like this cup from the cafeteria.
This work was done on oil camp and this cup we used to weigh the bird. So we put the bird in a bag and then put the cup on a scale um and so that's, that's one step. I used a lot of super glue. This is a common tool of a research ecologist. I’ll use a GPS device to mark where the nest was to make sure that we always have that data and then we take a lot of measurements of the birds. We use these calipers to measure the bill. We'll measure the head and the tail
and the wing length, and then once we've done all the measurements, we've attached a band to a bird, this is um, this is a band we use for a pelican. A large metal band that has a number on it that gets reported to the Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS and then there's a tiny little band for an Arctic turn so the difference in legs, I don't know if you can see, of this tiny little band versus the big pelican band. Um, there's the pelican band, and then finally we attach the tag to the bird so that's what we were doing in the last picture, and once the tag is attached and we've checked its wings and pulled feathers out of the harness um the birds sitting there like "okay I’m ready now, can I fly away?" and then we release the birds, and and here's me releasing uh jaeger in the Arctic and it'll start flying back uh to its nest with the tracking device on. >>Erika: Wow, that's incredible. So you use these um special nets sometimes over a nest to catch one and then you're gently removing them, taking different measurements right in the field, adding a tracking device, adding these like leg tags that are kind of like a little bracelet identifier and then releasing them after as well. That must be such an incredible moment from start to finish. >>Autumn-Lynn: It is, and you'll see me release this bird. It's a shorebird on the ground um so that's a really
safe way to release a black belly plover. Sea birds get a little disoriented when you release them on the ground so that's why we we throw them up in the air but again, one size doesn't fit all for these birds. So this is a ground release on its nest in June. June time of year in Alaska. >>Erika: Wow, and these tracking devices are so cool and I know some are giving different kinds of data and information. Can you talk us, to us a little bit about when you get that data how are you using that from technology to save species? >>Autumn-Lynn: Yeah, these data are so important. Understanding where are the important places for birds is a first step in understanding how and where we can save them and where they might be at risk. It shows how sites are connected and who should be working together
across countries or state lines to save species, and it really just provides that foundational knowledge that we need to do the rest of the work that we do. The field part is fun but a lot of times I’m in front of a computer analyzing data or writing up the work for a scientific journal. >>Erika: Right and that, that research and the data on the back end is so important too and I know that you've done a lot with your data in, you know, kind of influencing action. Can you tell us about, you know, what your data has done to help save birds? >>Autumn-Lynn: Yeah, thanks Erika. Um, it's really an honor to work
with animals in the field and so we really want to make sure that the data we're collecting are used to help save them and so some of my work has been presented. I got to present at the United Nations. Women always do that, right? This is a women in science event and some of my work has been presented, no I presented it at the United Nations during treaty negotiations to form a new treaty for the ocean. So they, I was invited to give an eight-minute speed talk and to try to interpret the migration paths of marine animals like albatrosses and seals for this audience of policy makers, decision makers and this is the general assembly room in New York where everyone's wearing their interpretation devices over their ears and they've got their country placards in front of them and it was just crazy. Um, this is why I got into this field. To be able to share science in a way that can help influence policy and decision making. >>Erika: Wow, incredible. So this is just such an important work and your work as a woman in STEM is really so inspirational and I’d love to hear more about your journey. How did you become interested in this? You said this is what you love about your job.
>>Autumn-Lynn: Oh that's that's my probably my first uh, field expedition to the Arctic where I got to see the Arctic for the first time. This is October in Alaska. A week later the ocean had frozen into ice so a really big change really quickly but I grew up in a pretty rural area where um I was, I was outdoorsy but I also really liked fashion and crafting and all kinds of things that traditionally um are, are viewed to associate with someone like me and but I had so many influences along the Chesapeake Bay. I knew women that crabbed for a living and women that were foresters or wildlife biologists so um it seemed like a clear path that I could take. It wasn't,
it wasn't odd. It was maybe rare, um but the door didn't seem closed to me and so that's, I just always really liked nature largely from, from where I grew up. >>Erika: Oh, amazing and I'd love to hear what everyone watching might be interested in that ties into, you know, your career, Kayleigh's career, and even uh zoo educators. So we, you're hearing from us all week long from some educators who are joining as well, so we want to hear what you're interested in with these careers already that might kind of spark your passion. Is it making observations, working with animals
in the field, caring for animals, teaching others about animals, using technology, reviewing data and creating models, solving problems and drawing and or photographing animals? >>Autumn-Lynn: There are so many careers that you can take to work with animals and, and to help them and you don't need to be a scientist to help animals either, so I think, um or at least for your job I think everyone can be a scientist, you know, it's all about solving mysteries. I love Nancy Drew books and that probably got me into this career, too. Um, but... but anyone can help. >>Erika: Amazing, and it looks like our answers are stopping a little bit so I’m going to end and share the results.
So it looks like a lot of people like caring for animals. Maybe you have pets already at home or volunteer or intern, you know, might be kind of in your future and path and something caring for animals, but a lot with solving problems, teaching about animals, and working in the field as well, so a little bit of everything and I think finding the combination of these things that we enjoy are such a fun part of kind of the career journey and learning about it and, you know, in the field and doing field work I know we're looking at some photos of you working with other women in the field. You must have some interesting moments in the field as well. Do you have any funny stories working with some of these animals? >>Autumn-Lynn: Well yes, too many to count. Um you've seen how unpredictable the animals can be and one of the things that you have to get really good at when you're a wildlife biologist is um being comfortable with things coming out of animals and onto you so I’ve been projectile pooped upon by really large birds like pelicans and loons and it's warm and kind of gross and smells like fish, and um you know some of the things you have to get used to when you're working outside is mosquitoes in the summer in Alaska. These are mosquitoes um on this film. >>Erika: They look like birds,
they're that big. >>Autumn-Lynn: They look like birds and sometimes you have to wait for an hour to catch just that right bird so you're just exposed um during that time and some birds like to regurgitate what they've just eaten into your hands so gulls are really famous for that um and gulls have a diverse diet. We know they eat natural things like fish but they also eat things like, here I’ll show you my earrings if you can see them. This is uh a gull with a french fry,
and so when when you catch a gull they can often throw it up into your hands and sometimes that's beautiful like pelagic red crabs a handful and sometimes it's barbecue and hot dogs so um, trying to help, help the gulls by not letting them get your french fries. >>Erika: I’ve never heard somebody describe regurgitation or animal throw up as potentially being beautiful because a crab might come out so I’m glad that you love even the gross moments. Well we only have about 10 minutes left and we have so many questions coming in so I do want to um you know move into our Q&A and I know Kayleigh is staying on to join us as well. We do have questions for both of you and talking about women in STEM and Autumn-Lynn you mentioned this already a little bit about looking up to other women. Do you have people who served as mentors or role models and also um how do you go about finding a mentor? >>Autumn-Lynn: Erika, you want me to go first? >>Erika: Yeah you can start. >>Autumn-Lynn: One thing that was strange to me is that I have so many mentors growing up um as I mentioned in the Chesapeake Bay, Kathy Baptist taught me about the Bay, Cindy Slaycome taught me about soils, Maggie Briggs taught me about wildlife. She was a wildlife manager but then I got to college and I had very
few women professors so it was really nice to see representation at some point in my life and and know that I could do this job um but still sometimes I feel that women are underrepresented in some parts of the field and I’ll get asked to serve on a panel and I might be the only woman. >>Erika: So we can still use lots of women in science and in these roles. Kayleigh, do you have mentors as well? >>Kayleigh: Yeah, so during my internship I would say that was mostly where I sort of 412 00:43:03,920 --> 00:43:08,240 got a lot of guidance and determined, discovered that yes, this is what I want to do for a field. I would say Ken Ramirez. He is a world-renowned animal behaviorist um, and I was so fortunate that at the Shedd Aquarium where I did my internship, he was in charge of the program back then and um I learned a lot. I think a lot of incredible women training and doing um some really great things was what sort of just opened my eyes and they were always willing to answer any questions that I had and yeah. >>Erika: I love that and I love that um you're bringing up um someone
who's not a woman because it's, it's so possible to have mentors and anyone as long as they're encouraging for you and an advocate for you in the career that you're choosing and your future, so there really can be um you know a mentor of any kind who's just helping you get a foot in the door. All right let's see. We've got so many questions coming in, um so do you, let's see. Autumn-Lynn, for you do you travel a lot to catch the birds that you study and if so where do you go? >>Autumn-Lynn: I do travel a lot. Um some of my work has been on seals and sea lions in California and South Africa. I did my master's degree in Australia, um but growing up I barely, uh barely traveled. I hadn't been out of the United States. Um, I hadn't been off North America until I was in my 20's, so this
was a new experience for me and one of the best parts of the job is working with teams and people from all over the world who share the love that you do for this animal that you're working with. >>Erika: Incredible. All right, we've got another question. Can you share what your favorite birds to look for in the DC area are. Um, somebody is new to the area and wants to look for birds. Autumn-Lynn, do you want to help us with that one? >>Autumn-Lynn: Sure. I’d love to hear Kayleigh's, uh Kayleigh's answer, too. That'll be good.
Um you know, one of, one of the birds that I love seeing and that you can see at the National Zoo at certain times of year is a black crown night heron. I love that night herons are at the Zoo because um they were the first bird to ever be banded with one of these metal bands by a Smithsonian scientist a hundred years ago and now we're tracking them with these devices so they're, they can be kind of secretive. They like hanging out by the water, but they also hang out and roost at the Zoo so black crown night heron in the DC area would be one to check off, for sure. >>Erika: I love it, and Kayleigh, I don't know if you're a birder or people saw you at the pelicans today but do you want to talk about if you have a favorite bird in the DC area that's great, but also, you know what is, what does American trail look like for you? Um, what other kinds of animals do you work with? >>Kayleigh: Yeah, so it's sort of two in one there because ravens are, I love ravens. Um and we actually have ravens here on American Trail so I do get to work with them um a lot. I just think they're just so smart and they're so, like, they're so savvy with everything they do. Um, they're actually
so smart that they actually use tools which is unique to corvids which is what crows and ravens, the category that they're both under. Um, so similar to apes and elephants and dolphins that use tools and obviously humans, ravens do as well, and in terms of other animals here on American Trail that I work with, so I actually am newer on American Trail. I had worked with elephants for 10 years, um seven of which was here at the Smithsonian's National Zoo with the elephants here, um and I decided that, you know, I’d work with these animals for so long that it would be good for me to learn more about birds because I had never worked with birds before um and marine mammals. I love, love, love to train and we train all of our animals here but there's a lot of training that goes into marine mammals um, so here we have um seals, sea lions, ravens, pelicans, eagles, we do have an eagle, Annie, she's pretty incredible. Um, Keto our maned wolf that we have, um beavers, otters as well, I always feel like I’m missing something. The wood ducks. We have wood ducks and ruddy ducks.
Don't forget them out. Um, I love the ruddy ducks too. They're also a lot of fun. They're super cute. >>Erika: Amazing. So we have five minutes left, so I’m going to launch our final poll just in case people have to leave, but we do still have a couple questions so if everyone can, wants to stay and hear some more answers we would love to have you uh, and another one for you, Autumn-Lynn. Is it hard to be a scientist? Madeleine asked that. >>Autumn-Lynn: It definitely taxes the brain and sometimes it's physically hard.
We've talked about the crazy moves we have to make in the field, crawl on our bellies or jump up and run so it can be a workout and, and it is hard and you know it's also hard emotionally when you spend so much time studying a bird that you really care about and you see places start to be removed from their habitat or you see a pelican entangled, so there are a lot of highs but then some things that can be hard about being a scientist, too when you spend so much time caring for these animals. >>Erika: Well it's great to hear that there, you know, the emotional um difficulty for it because you care so much too, so even though it might be hard work it's really you know has some really rewarding moments and, you know, like you said right from the beginning you love it right away so if you find something that you love uh, you know, you can apply the science that you're learning in school absolutely to this and continue to enjoy it. So a couple questions about more of the tracking devices, um what do the small tags run on because they were so teeny tiny like the Jelly Belly. >>Autumn-Lynn: That was a great question. Yes, there is a tiny little battery in this tag um and this battery only has capacity for about a year and a half of data, so it runs for about a year and a half we have to recover the bird in its second year after it's gone back to its nest again in the Arctic, in the middle of Alaska, um in the tundra so we have to recatch the bird um get the tag and then download the data from the tag, so it runs on a tiny little battery and then we uh pulled the data off of and, and yes that pure recovery joy. That's when you find this bird who has just traveled to Antarctica and back to the Arctic in a year and it's within a few meters of where it nested the year before and you're able to catch it a second time and and get that tag off of that leg.
>>Erika: Oh amazing, well I know we only have a couple minutes left um, so Alex and Andrew asked "What's your favorite moment in the field?" and that's for you Autumn-Lynn, and then after she answers Kayleigh if you can say what your favorite moment um so far on your your time at American Trail. >>Autumn-Lynn: I think uh two things, so you saw that pure recovery joy - definitely a favorite moment, um you know that you haven't tagged those birds in vain and you've got the tech back and it just made the longest migration in the world or one of, um but I also really enjoy the moments of working with people and camaraderie and kicking back at the end of the day, sharing what we've seen that day and just, just being out in nature that's the best. Being away from the desk. >>Erika: Amazing. Kayleigh, what do you like about American Trail so far? What's been a fun moment? >>Kayliegh: So far a fun moment that I really enjoy, which like really brings joy to my job is um the moments where we train animals for something that would normally be a stressful procedure such as blood draw or injection training. Like for me I know I don't like getting needles in my body um and neither do the animals but, so it could be something that's stressful but we work and train them every day, all day so that these events that we regularly have to do on them are not stressful at all because we train them a lot, um so I’d say that's what probably brings me the much, most joy is seeing those moments where a veterinarian comes down and says "hey, we need blood on Kia. Can we get it?" Like, "yep no problem," and she comes right up and she's, any,
at any point she can go right into the water um but, but our vets can come draw blood and it's not a stressful situation at all. They get a bunch of food and then they go off on their way. Nobody has to be restrained. Nobody has to be sedated, and I’d say that that brings me a lot of joy. >>Erika: Amazing, well thank you both so much. Autumn-Lynn, since you kicked us off and um, I want to end with you, if you have any uh words of wisdom for people who are looking to get started. Do you have any um, you know, kind of parting advice for those interested in this field? >>Autumn-Lynn: Um me, for me growing up it was really just voicing that I was interested in something to a person that did that job and asking you know can, "can I help you?" I think um that is a first step and people email me all the time and sometimes you have opportunities and sometimes you don't but I always remember the person that emailed me and you know or, or asked me and had this passion so um I think that's the first step. Just letting people know that you're interested in this topic and if you might be able to help.
>>Erika: That's great. Thank you so much for that advice and I hope um everyone who is interested does just that and reaches out and tells you know, their teacher or a mentor in their life um that they're interested and hope that they find someone to encourage them to get to uh, you know, be in this field and do what they love just like you said right from the start that you love what you do, so thank you all so much for joining us today. Um, you know, we got to learn how and why Autumn-Lynn tracks migratory birds and a couple of the different kinds of tracking devices that she uses, how the data has helped to save species and the incredible difference that she's making and then that there are so many other careers in uh working with wildlife as well, like you saw with Kayleigh. Uh we hope that uh you'll join us again on Friday uh for Earth Day uh April 22nd at 1pm where we'll close out the Women on the Move series with our land species and we encourage you to post about this program if you liked it, um respond to us, tell us if you liked it in the survey as well, so educators uh we'd appreciate your feedback so we can always improve and, and help make this program better and a huge thank you again to the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and Earth Optimism. On behalf of the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center keep on moving and have a wild day. Thanks everyone.