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Birds in Peru: my experience as a McGill student at the XI Peruvian Ornithological Congress

by Francis Van Oordt

From July 23rd to July 28th 2018,  participants gathered in the Amazonian rainforest of Iquitos, Peru, for the 11th Peruvian Ornithological Congress. In attendance were delegates from across the country and from around the world, including several organizations such as the Amazon Conservation (ACCA), the Peruvian National Park Service, the Peruvian Forestry Administration Agency, the Peruvian Amazonian Research Institute (IIAP), San Diego Zoo Global – Perú, the Centre for Ornithology and Biodiversity (CORBIDI), and representatives from prestigious universities in the United States and Europe.

Having attended this event for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to see other students from diverse fields in science, including ecology, especially students from Peruvian universities that are not found in the capital, Lima. These events, when held outside the country’s capital, represent an important opportunity to decentralize the dissemination of scientific knowledge among college students who may have less access to such academic events. Keynote speakers made a particular effort to present in Spanish, which surely helped participants who may not be familiar enough with English understand new and complex scientific topics. A large number of Peruvian graduate students from programs in Canada, the United States, and Europe attended the event which was a good demonstration of how Peruvian researchers come back and share ideas and technologies learned abroad with the scientific community in Latin America.

The organizers wanted to broaden the scope of the event from common topics on avian composition, diversity, new records of species, and taxonomy, to other interesting and more complex topics such as community ecology, morphology, behavior, ecological interactions, and climate change impacts, among others. Although some gaps in ornithology research remain to be filled, this Congress was a big step towards the right direction in advancing our knowledge on these topics.

I gave a talk about my research pertaining to wing ecomorphology (i.e., the interaction between morphology and ecology) of the Diving-petrel and Storm-petrel, both found in Peru. Studies on morphology are often necessary to understand and explain taxonomy (e.g. similar species can be distinguished based on their size) or populations dynamics (e.g. measurements aid in age classifications). However, functional interactions between morphology and ecology are often neglected. One of the aims of this project is to understand how wing morphology correlates with foraging strategies and movements. The outputs of my research could shed light on how birds perform in particular environments and how this varies in heterogeneous environments.

The information that was presented and discussed in the Congress will surely be very useful for the development of management plans and conservation actions for threatened species and habitats in Amazonian rainforests, regions along the Andes Mountains, and the Pacific Coast. It is a great challenge to protect and properly manage the flora and fauna in Latin American countries, where the government’s priorities are normally to increase short-term income and deal with poverty, mainly through resource harvesting (such as oiling, mining, forestry, or agriculture). Talks focusing on common issues, such as coffee and poultry production, showed that understanding the relationships between birds and agricultural production is crucial especially in South America. The need to involve local communities for the conservation of forests and wildlife was clearly stated, whether it is to protect habitats or to reduce illegal trade, which in turn has reached global levels. The symposium entitled “Threatened species and conservation plans in Peru” demonstrated how scientific studies can contribute to the conservation and management of protected species and areas in Latin America, and hopefully inspired the contribution of younger generations in the field.

Finally, a discussion forum entitled “Peruvian Graduate Students Abroad” was particularly enlightening, whereby professors from international Universities along with Peruvian graduate students talked about the different opportunities and requirements needed to study abroad. The discussion revolved around the doubts and questions of students of all ages seeking to pursue graduate studies abroad. Delegates noted the need for more events like this and for more information provided by Peruvian universities on how to apply to universities abroad.

The 11th Peruvian Ornithological Congress surpassed our expectations. It was clear that the organizers want to improve bird research in Peru, and this in turn would improve bird conservation initiatives in the region.

I thank the QCBS for the funding that made my participation in this event possible.

Francis van Oordt is a graduate student pursuing his PhD at McGill University in the Department of Natural Resource Science. His research focuses on foraging ecology, energetics, and morphology of tropical seabirds. He is also part of the BESS-CREATE program.

Post date: May 03, 2019


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