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UDaily: UD researcher Jaclyn Smolinsky uses weather radar to find migratory bird hot spots

UDaily: UD researcher Jaclyn Smolinsky uses weather radar to find migratory bird hot spots

Working at a bird banding station in Louisiana catching birds coming across the Gulf of Mexico, Jaclyn Smolinsky remembers one day leaving a site where they caught 300 to 400 birds and looking up at a tree where birds had chosen to rest and thinking that it looked like a Christmas tree.

“There was a red bird in it, a blue bird, a yellow bird, a green bird – all these different colored birds – and I just thought, ‘This is so cool that these birds just arrived from a flight that probably took about 17 to 37 hours. This is so amazing.’ From that point on, I wanted to study migratory birds in any capacity,” said Smolinsky.

Now a research associate in the aeroecology laboratory of Jeff Buler, assistant professor in the University of Delaware’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC), Smolinsky has gone from tracking migratory songbirds at stopover sites in the field to following their activity and departures at stopover sites using weather radar.

“It’s staying with the same birds and using the radar technology so it’s really related to what I used to do except I don’t see the birds and put little tags on them any more, I just use the radar to study them. It’s sort of transitioned from actual birds to dots on a screen. But they’re still birds,” said Smolinsky. “I’m drawn to this side of it because there are so many cool technologies available now.”

In Buler’s lab, Smolinsky explained that they are using weather radar to identify areas that birds are consistently using – areas in high densities during their migration that would be targets for conservation.