The Conference of the Birds with Auriel Fournier at Real Scientists

Over the course of the two and a half years we’ve been running Real Scientists, we’ve been delighted to see how our curators describe and map the world and universe around us.  The sky is a  window onto the universe rather than the entirety of creation, the oceans teem with life; penguins flit across polar ice. Around us, birds sing in trees whose roots crack the asphalt of sidewalks in cities and suburbs. Away from the cities, the busy lives of trees, grass, shrubs, animals go on with Auriel_VIRAor without observation from humans. Birds migrate vast distances over seasons and ruminants cross savanna under the watchful eyes of predators. Our scientists track the movements of animals, count them, watch how they fill niches and fill the spaces of this planet.  Our next curator, Auriel Fournier (@RallidaeRule ), a PhD student at the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Arkansas, is one of these scientists who chronicles the lives of birds and how it affects landscapes and ecosystems. We asked Auriel our usual questions about her life and work, and here she is in her own words.


How did you end up in science? Love of the outdoors from when I was little, I went to many county park programs as a kid and got involved with some local groups (Green Creek Wildlife Society and Black Swamp Bird Observatory) who did research. A bird was put in my hand as part of a bird banding program and it was all over from there. I am fascinated by bird migration and pursued that into college and now into a PhD.


I want to figure out what drives migration, how birds move across the landscape, what triggers those movements, and how we can conserve them into the future. I really like answering questions with direct on the ground implications, ‘how should we manage this resource for this species, or what is the status of this species and how is it changing over time?’


My current work focuses on wetland management and bird migration, specifically the migration of rails. Myself and my collaborators are trying to understand how the management of wetland during fall migration impacts rails. Rails are a group of wetland obligate birds which are very elusive and rarely seen as they are not often vocal and rarely fly unless approached. Many of the wetlands in the central U.S. are managed to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl (ducks and geese) and we are currently assuming that by managing for waterfowl we are also providing habitat for other species. My project is examining that assumption and providing managers with the information they need to manage for both waterfowl and rails.


I am working on state and federal properties across Missouri, these properties, and their maintenance are paid for in part by tax dollars. By better understanding how we should manage these wetlands we can better use those tax dollars. Migratory birds are also important as measures of the health of our ecosystems and as vital parts of the many places they inhabit throughout their migratory cycle. We need to ensure that they have appropriate habitat so they can keep migrating and providing their vital ecosystem services. Rails are also declining, and are rarely seen, so my project can provide a unique opportunity to see them up close.


Extracurricular activities : I am an instructor for Software Carpentry, teaching others about coding and reproducible science.


Hobbies include: I am an active outdoors person, I love hiking, backpacking, birding and being outside.


Ideal Day off? Camping, getting up early to watch the sunrise, cooking delicious food with my friends, getting home and spending the night curled up on the couch watching a good sci fi movie.



Please welcome Auriel Fournier to Real Scientists!

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