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Wednesday, April 22 • 2:00pm - 2:20pm
The Use of Stable-Isotope Analysis to Distinguish between Populations of the Northern Saw-whet Owl

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The Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is listed as a threatened species in North Carolina that occupies the high elevation habitats. Owls were captured using mist netting and an audio lure. Feather samples were collected from 20 individuals and sent to Colorado Plateau Stable Isotope Laboratory (CPSIL) for analysis. The isotope chosen for analysis was deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen with an additional neutron. Deuterium occurs naturally in precipitation and is incorporated into the food chain when absorbed through plant tissues. The concentrations of deuterium occur predictably depending on location. As organisms consume food and water, deuterium accumulates in their tissues; this occurs all the way through the food chain. By analyzing the feathers of the Northern Saw-whet Owl for this isotope, it should be possible to determine the location that the feathers were grown. This is done by matching the isotopic signatures found in the feathers to corresponding locations with similar isotopic signatures. If the study site supports both resident and migrant populations of the Northern Saw-whet Owl, as currently believed, a difference in the isotopic signatures should be apparent. These data will help to better inform conservation efforts of high elevation forest by providing a better understanding of habitat use by Saw-whet Owls. The results are pending as the feathers are currently being analyzed.


Wednesday April 22, 2015 2:00pm - 2:20pm PDT
014 Zeis Hall

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