Students Research Raptors on Chestnut Ridge

Apr 24, 2019

Brothers Calvin and Peter Livengood conducted an investigation into migration patterns through the Center for Undergraduate Research at Cal U. They presented their findings at the Strike a Spark student research conference.

raptor research

Calvin (left) and Peter Livengood conduct raptor migration research on Chestnut Ridge.

 

The Livengood brothers had a hunch: Chestnut Ridge, the western-most ridge in the Allegheny Mountains, was an active spot for migrating raptors. 

Now they have the scientific research to support it. 

Calvin Livengood, a Cal U sophomore majoring in environmental studies and business administration, and Peter Livengood, a home-schooled high school senior who is taking credits through Cal U’s High School Early Admit program, presented their findings at the Strike a Spark Conference April 24 in the Convocation Center. 

Peter Livengood will enroll at Cal U in the fall with majors in fisheries and wildlife biology and parks and recreation management

Under the guidance of research adviser Dr. Carol Bocetti, the brothers completed an independent research investigation: “Discovering and Modeling Raptor Migration on the Westernmost Ridge in the Allegheny Mountains.” 

Their findings: Temperature and wind direction are two prediction variables in species composition and diversity. 

They also counted the number and species of migrating birds at two sites, Summit Golf Course and Laurel Caverns. 

“We couldn’t find any records with the Hawk Migration Association of North America that raptors had been documented on the ridge,” which is 90 miles long, Peter said. 

Thanks to their interest, The Summit Mountain Hawkwatch is now a location at hawkcount.org

“One main thing we can say is that Chestnut Ridge exists as a migration route for raptors,” Peter said. “We counted 1,000 birds in the fall. It’s also notable to say that the eastern golden eagle is not migrating through this area.” 

“It was a unique feeling to see the first group of hawks come through,” Calvin said. “We’re just students, but we discovered a new watch site.” 

For Bocetti, it was important that the Livengoods do more than a bird count to meet the research standards of the course. 

“It’s meant to be scientifically rigorous,” she said. “My role as their adviser was to help them target the project, to focus on the questions that are answerable. They used a model-building approach and worked with (statistics professor) Dr. Melissa Sovak to build a mathematical model. They wrote a proposal, and we discussed hypotheses and predictors. 

“They were very self-motivated and easy to coach and teach.” 

“Being able to gain research experience helps me decide on a career, and it’s also work I may be doing in the environmental field,” Calvin said. 

The brothers received a grant for their study from Cal U’s Center for Undergraduate Research.  They also received funding from the Dr. Barry Hunter Memorial Fund and the Jesse B. Guttman Student Research Grant.

“It’s invaluable experience for them to present at Strike a Spark,” Bocetti said. “They have the opportunity to communicate the science they have learned to the public at large. 

“We are a hands-on program. We get students out in the woods for lines on a resume that will get them jobs. The center allows them to get outside, get dirty and learn the science.”