"One question in bird migration research is: Why do some birds travel all the way to the tropics every year to spend the winter, while others don't?" Jahn said. "We want to know more about different migratory strategies -- the distance, the speed -- as well as which birds are at greater risk from climate change based upon their particular behaviors."
Jahn's tools of the trade include GPS trackers -- or "tiny bird backpacks" -- weighting only 2 grams, which can follow a bird's movement anywhere in the world for a year; as well as miniscule, colored leg bands that identify individual birds upon their return to their capture location the following year.
At IU, Jahn is focused on tracking the American robin, a species of thrush that is surprisingly understudied despite being widespread across North America. (Always on the lookout for robin nests on campus, Jahn is rarely out of the office without binoculars. His favorite spot is the marshlands off the Jordan River near the Wendell Wright Education Building.) In addition to using the trackers and bands, Jahn also collects a small blood sample from each bird to test for diseases such as Lyme and avian malaria.
Additional coverage by Phys.org