And that reason is that I am a hoarder. But that turns out to be fortunate, because I’ve become involved in a project that just so happens to need someone to go sample some birds for them, and I already have all the tools.
In a few weeks a co-conspirator and I will head off to North Carolina and West Virginia to chase three target species:
These species are the subject of study by the Bird Genoscape Project, which uses genetics to figure out the migration routes of birds. Migration is notoriously hard to study, and exactly where birds go when they fly between their breeding and wintering grounds remains mostly unknown. The Bird Genoscape Project’s strategy is this: if you can identify the genetic “fingerprint” of birds from each breeding location, then you can use that to figure out where a migrating bird is going to (or coming from). A decade ago this would have been impossible, but as genetic technologies have improved, genotyping hundreds of birds has become feasible.
To build this reference map of genetic fingerprints, the Project needs genetic samples from everywhere that a species breeds. (These genetic samples will just be a bit of blood; the birds are released afterwards and are fine.) There are already many people across the country contributing samples; but for the three species I’ll be seeking, there was a gap in North Carolina and West Virginia.
So I’m digging out my banding pliers, packing up my mist net poles, and getting ready to chase birds again.