Join Earthwatch and partner HawkWatch International in one of two locations—in northern Utah or southeastern Arizona—to study owl ecology in several unique habitats and learn about nesting and breeding behaviors and potential climate change impacts to owls and other wildlife.
During the day, you’ll measure owl habitat—locating tree cavities and taking GPS and other measurements. At night, you’ll listen for the low-pitched ‘boop’ of the Flammulated Owl, the morse-code call of the Whiskered Screech-owl, the bouncing ball song of the Western Screech-owl, or the non-stop ‘reverse signal’ tooting of the Northern Saw-whet owl while you survey for, capture and band owls that fly above you.
From deep within aspen groves in northern Utah to the riparian canyon and coniferous forests in southeastern Arizona, a suite of small forest owl species—many roughly the size of a human hand—seek out tree cavities, hollow openings such as those carved by woodpeckers, to build their nests. The majority of species are nocturnal, hunting for insects, small mammals, and birds under the cover of darkness, taking moths, beetles, and even the occasional bat on the wing.
But climate change threatens to disrupt the routine of some of these species. Scientists predict that within this century, aspen forests may all but disappear in many areas. Natural tree cavities will disappear too, affecting not only owls, but other species that rely on these cavities for nesting. Climate-related changes may also disturb the owls’ food sources—for example, warmer temperatures could affect the timing of when insects or mice emerge from eggs and burrows, timing which many owl’s breeding seasons are carefully linked to.
In Arizona: You’ll stay in comfortable dorm-style rooms at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station near Portal, Arizona. Meals will take place at the station’s full service cafeteria where teams will eat with other station members during set meal times and vegetarian options are available upon request.
In Utah: You’ll stay in 3-5 bedroom rental homes/condominiums that are nestled in a mountain valley near the Snowbasin Ski area and Huntsville, UT. You’ll share in the preparation and enjoyment of hearty meals with other team members and researchers. Vegetarian options are available upon request.