Alex Jahn

Alex Jahn

Migration Patterns Fellow
Environmental Resilience Institute

IU Office: Sycamore Hall 303
Phone: 812-855-0115
Email Address:

Education and Appointments

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, 2016-2018
  • Visiting Researcher, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Rio Claro, 2013-2016
  • Courtesy Postodoctoral Research Associate, University of Florida, 2012-2013
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2010-2012
  • Ph.D. Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida, 2009
  • M.S. Biology, University of Arkansas, 2000
  • B.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Management, Lake Superior State University, 1996


Migration Patterns Fellow Alex Jahn holds a bachelor’s of science in fisheries and wildlife management from Lake Superior State University, a master’s of science in biology from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary ecology from the University of Florida. Prior to joining the Environmental Resilience Institute, Jahn was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, a visiting researcher at the Universidade Estadual Paulista-Rio Claro, Brazil, and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington, DC.


Jahn’s research focuses on understanding how and why birds migrate, as well as the risks they face from current and future changes to the ecosystems they inhabit. His research program borrows from the fields of ecology, behavior and life history theory.

The migration of birds that breed in North America and overwinter in the tropics is by far the best-studied bird migration system in the Americas. However, hundreds of species of birds also migrate entirely within tropical latitudes, such as those that migrate within the Amazon Basin. These birds are called intra-tropical migrants. Other species breed at south-temperate latitudes, such as Patagonia, migrating northwards towards the tropics to spend the winter. These birds are called austral migrants. Our lack of understanding about intra-tropical and austral bird migration has impeded our appreciation of how birds move across a changing planet and how best to protect them. Increasing threats, such as habitat destruction, to numerous migratory bird species, combined with a lack of information about where they go to spend the winter and how they get there, inhibits effective conservation of many migratory bird populations across the planet. Jahn’s research aims to fill this gap by comparing closely related bird species that are part of migratory systems across the Americas. Such comparisons will provide valuable information about which populations of migratory birds are at greatest risk to rapid climate and habitat changes.

Conservation of migratory birds is not only important to preserve these unique species, but also to maintain intact, functioning ecosystems. Migratory birds disperse seeds, transport diseases such as Avian Influenza, control pest populations and pollinate flowers of various plant species. Thus, understanding birds’ movements within and between different regions of the globe helps us better understand the ecosystems they are a part of and how to best conserve them.

As part of his Environmental Resilience Institute fellowship, Jahn is starting a study on the migration of American Robins (Turdus migratorius), which are commonly found in backyards across Indiana. The project will compare their migration to that of closely related Turdus thrush species that migrate within South America.