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Heads up for hawks

Brothers contribute to research for raptors

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

Now they have the scientific research to support it.

Under the guidance of biology professor Dr. Carol Bocetti, Calvin and Peter Livengood completed an independent investigation: “Discovering and Modeling Raptor Migration on the Westernmost Ridge in the Allegheny Mountains.”

Their findings: Temperature and wind direction can help to predict the species of hawks, eagles and other birds of prey
likely to be found migrating through a specific area.

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 says.

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,” says Peter, who took the research course through Cal U’s High School Early Admit Program. This fall he’s enrolled at Cal U as a dual major, in fisheries and wildlife biology and parks and recreation management.

“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,” says Calvin, a Cal U junior in the environmental studies and business administration programs.

“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.

“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.”

The Livengoods presented their research at Cal U this spring as part of the Strike a Spark Conference, the University’s annual showcase of undergraduate research, creative works and scholarship.

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.

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

— By Wendy Mackall, Communications director at Cal U

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