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Support My Research

In 2014, as an undergraduate, I began to study the Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) with the late Dr. Kimberly Smith at the University of Arkansas. Now as a PhD student in the Willson Lab at the U of A, I study owl dispersal movement in general and the saw-whet owl continues to be one of my focal species. Prior to 2014, this tiny owl was not known to occur regularly in the region, where we now know it is a regular fall migrant and winter resident in upland pine forest. Read more about the goals of the Arkansas Saw-whet Owl Project below and costs associated with them.

I am grateful for the selfless contributions that will aide in continuing this research and ultimately the conservation of this poorly understood species. Choose an amount and donate below, any little bit helps! If you wish to donate more, simply add the desired amount to your cart using the presets. In addition to knowing your dollars are going to good use, donors will receive a high-resolution digital print at checkout. Stay up to date by following the project on social media! (This research is conducted with all necessary permits.)

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Arkansas Saw-whet Owl Project Research Objectives

Stable Isotope Analysis: $3300. For several years, we have been involved in stable hydrogen isotope analysis. Simply, this allows us to determine where an individual bred last based on a single feather sample. Connecting where an individual was captured during fall migration and where it bred last is an important step in better understanding the movement behavior of saw-whet owls, who are notorious for their complexity. Today, we still know very little about how saw-whet owls go about their autumn migration and where they end up for winter.


Stable isotope analysis is much more affordable than remote tracking, which isn’t a viable option for small saw-whet owls on a large scale. We have fresh isotope data from an exploratory set of feathers from breeding saw-whet owls, and will soon expand on this using feathers from several hundred individuals captured across North America during fall migration. While we are able to analyze samples at the U of A, lab work and material costs add up quickly.

Genetic Sexing: $500. A continued collaboration with other researchers at the U of A will result in the collection of blood samples from our owls. Using a minimally-invasive technique, blood will be collected for genetic sexing. We hope this will get at one of our long-standing questions about why we mostly capture female owls. Given the error involved in field sexing techniques, there has long been a need for widely used genetic sexing that is more accurate. While we are able to analyze samples at the U of A, significant costs are associated with molecular sexing kits and other supplies required for accurate results.

Migration Monitoring Costs: $550. During the 2022 season, we plan to make 15 trips to our field site for migration banding. This lovely spot is 42 miles from home and significant travel costs are incurred during the field season. Also, as part of standard migration monitoring, two different net arrays will be used to dig deeper into why we capture mostly females owls. A necessary evil is the abundance of AA batteries needed to power audio lures to capture saw-whet owls. Batteries are changed every few nights and recycled. Reusable batteries have been used in the past, but are similarly costly.

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