The Secret Life of Birds
This seminar introduces students to the origin and evolution of birds from dinosaurs, the diversity of birds in New Jersey and worldwide, the physics and physiology of flight, and the forces that shape bird behavior and life history. The approach of the course is to have students engage in field-based lectures on these central topics, so that the birds we are seeing together outside become the visual “aid” for learning. For example, the physics behind avian flight mean far more to us when we are seeing birds take off, soar, and land in front of them. The timing of the course coincides with the peak of Fall migration in New Jersey. This facet of the course will allow us to discover and consider many more species than we would normally, and allows in-depth discussion of topics such as the evolution of migration and navigation. Students can expect an introduction to the field identification of birds, and a basic understanding of life history evolution, ecological interactions, and basic physiology.