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Research by Biologist Bechard Featured in British Journal

By: Kathleen Tuck   Published 8:48 am / April 15, 2014


The latest issue of Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B features research by Boise State biologist Marc Bechard. Each issue of Philosophical Transactions B is devoted to a specific area of biological sciences and guest edited by one or more experts in the field; the April 14 issue is themed “Satellite remote sensing for biodiversity research and conservation applications.”

Philosophical Transactions is the oldest scientific publication in the world; Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin both published in it. In 1886, it was split into Philosophical Transactions A and B to cover the physical and life sciences.

turkey vulture transmitter june 2013 297Bechard is one of several scientists who studied the movements of turkey vultures who were tracked across North and South America over nearly 10 years using GPS-satellite tags. The research explored how the birds’ movements are influenced by weather and vegetation.

Researchers found that these soaring birds take advantage of wind and thermals to fly more efficiently. Under higher-temperature and lower-vegetation productivity, birds have larger nesting-season home-range areas, perhaps because under these conditions they can or need to fly farther to find food for their young.

“For the past 10 years I have been traveling to Canada and Argentina to capture and fit turkey vultures with satellite telemetry units,” Bechard said. “Our study is based on 24 instrumented turkey vultures and I have been involved with tagging 14 of them. It is personally very rewarding to see the results of our research published in such a prestigious journal.”

The study resulted in an article titled “Environmental drivers of variability in the movement ecology of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in North and South America.” Bechard’s co-authors are Somayeh Dodge, Gil Bohrer, Keith Bildstein, Sarah C. Davidson, Rolf Weinzierl, David Barber, Roland Kays, David Brandes, Jiawei Han and Martin Wikelski.

The data emphasized the need for large-scale collaborations and joining of environmental and tracking data.