Not many collegiate departments can boast about having a radar ornithologist among its faculty, but with the addition of Jeff Buler, the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources can now claim to have one in its ranks.
After conducting his post-doctoral work the past four years at the University of Delaware, Buler has joined the department faculty with his main area of research in what he terms “radar ornithology.”
“I use weather radar to quantify bird distributions, and to track migratory birds,” Buler said. “Only a handful of people do it, and I’m interested in mapping species distributions with radar and I’m also interested in stopover ecology of migratory birds.”
With regards to the stopover ecology of migratory birds, Buler explained that he is “interested in understanding how they select the habitats where they stop and how that impacts their behavior and the success of their migrations.” He currently has two research projects that will collectively map important stopover areas for birds during their migrations along the entire US Atlantic coast using the national network of weather radars.
Buler’s research has mostly involved the study of songbirds but he has also used radar to map wintering waterfowl distributions in California to assess their response to wetland restoration efforts of Farm Bill conservation programs.
Buler explained that radar data are archived back to the 1990s, which allows him to look at how bird distributions change over the period of time before and after areas are restored. “Waterfowl respond immediately to restoration efforts by using the new wetlands as soon as the former crop fields are flooded.”
Also part of Buler’s research is a project to monitor bird and bat flight activity at the UD wind turbine in Lewes, Del., to assess the turbine’s impact to wildlife in southern Delaware. The project was initiated last spring.
Tracking Buler’s own educational travels, one finds a migratory pattern that started in the mid-Atlantic, then headed south to the Gulf Coast before returning back north and landing at the University of Delaware.
Buler received his bachelor’s degree in biology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, his master’s degree in wildlife at Louisiana State University and his doctorate in biology at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Buler said he is pleased to be working at UD and specifically in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. “My family is originally from this area so it’s nice for me to be in this area,” said Buler.
Of the department, Buler noted, “I enjoy the department. It’s a very friendly, inviting environment and we all get along very well. So hopefully that is conducive to being a productive environment.”
Buler said his favorite part of becoming a professor has been the ability to mentor students and teach courses. “My position before was purely research so now I’ve got the opportunity to teach undergrads and grad students, and so I’m looking forward to that.” He will be teaching a landscape ecology course in the spring and a wildlife habitat management course in the fall.
Another thing that Buler is excited about is the ability to have graduate students help him conduct research. He is currently building an “aeroecology” program here at UD for the study of flying animals in the airspace.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Danielle Quigley