Coffee Hour: Golden Eagle Migration in the Eastern U.S

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 3:30pm
Refreshments provided in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. Lecture beginsin 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

Striking a balance: Modeling spring migration of golden eagles through wind energy developments of the central Appalachians, USA.

Wind turbines are a known source of mortality to birds and certain turbines have caused significant mortality of local bird populations.  Therefore, the rapid pace of wind energy development in the central Appalachians of the USA is of concern. Avian migrants are concentrated in this region because long-linear ridges provide orographic as well as thermal lift. Diurnal migrants can thus implement multiple energy-minimizing flight strategies, including thermal and slope soaring. Slope soaring can result in potential conflicts because birds fly at low altitudes often within the rotor swept zone of turbines. To improve siting and reduce impacts on wildlife we tracked 21 golden eagles with high-frequency GPS-GSM telemetry devices during spring migration 2009, 2010 and 2011. We used these data to develop spatially-explicit models of low altitude migration. To identify areas of potential conflict, we compared these models to turbine habitat suitability models. Additionally, we compared our models to proposed and existing turbine developments. Our results indicate that several developments pose a risk to migrating eagles while others pose little to no risk. Within individual developments, not all turbines present the same level of risk, thus we can make site specific recommendations for reducing risk by modifying siting of individual turbines

Trish Miller has a long standing interest in bird conservation and spatial ecology. During her career she has worked for several state and private conservation organizations where she studied eagles and other birds. In 2003, she began working at Riparia and developed a strong interest in spatial modeling. Under Dr. Robert Brooks, she continued to develop her skills and knowledge while working on her master’s degree in ecology at Penn State from 2004-2007. From 2004 – 2009, she provided GIS support and database management for the 2nd Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas. In 2006 she established the GIS Lab at Powdermill Nature Reserve the biological field station of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and developed an extensive spatial database of the vegetation, hydrology, and infrastructure of the reserve.

Trish Miller with golden eagle
















In 2011, Miller began working as a wildlife biologist for Dr. Todd Katzner at WVU and as an adjunct faculty member of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA where she teaches “Introduction to GIS”. Additionally, she is finishing her PhD in ecology at Penn State, also under Brooks. For her dissertation she is studying the movement ecology of golden eagles in eastern North America and the potential conflict between eagles and wind power development. As an extension of this work, she and her colleagues have received grants from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the US Department of Energy, the Bureau of Land Management and the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation. In addition she has recently collaborated on papers on golden eagle movement and conservation in Ecology Letters and The Auk and other papers are forthcoming in Biology Letters and Journal of Applied Ecology. For this work, Miller and her colleagues were awarded the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology Conservation Award in 2011.