Julie Mallon
B.S. Biology, Boston University, 2012  

I am a Master of Science student in Wildlife and Fisheries Resources at West   Virginia University. Dr. Todd Katzner is my faculty advisor and my research is focused on flight behavior in Black and Turkey vultures.  My primary research interest is understanding how birds respond to    changing atmospheric conditions.

Vultures are excellent soarers. They have morphological wing and body adaptations that make them energetically efficient, which enable them to be successful as scavengers. Most notably, vultures soar to save energy  and soar more than other birds of prey. This makes them an excellent model to study the relationship between atmospheric conditions and   flight behavior.

One of the objectives of my research is to understand which meteorological conditions influence flight behavior of vultures. I predict that vultures strongly prefer to soar whenever possible; deviations from typical flight behaviors should be indicative of influential meteorological conditions.

Vultures are social creatures. Black vultures are more gregarious than turkey vultures, however, and exhibit different social behaviors. Understanding how vultures interact with each other and how these interactions influence behavior is another objective of my research. The third objective of my research is to investigate links between habitat and behavior.

To conduct my research, I am observing telemetered vultures in eastern Virginia. By combining observation with telemetry, I will be able to discern more about how the atmosphere, social interaction, and habitat each influence behavior and to what degree.

In 2011 I interned at Hawk Mountain, where I worked with vultures and did behavioral observations of American kestrels (Falco sparverius). In 2012 I worked with Great tits (Parus major) as a field assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany.