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Biology Professor Conducts Fieldwork in Western U.S.

June 20, 2012

Laura Lemire
Communications and Marketing

Dr. Jay Pitocchelli is a biology professor interested in birdsBiology professor Jay Pitocchelli, known as "Dr. Jay" to his biology students, is rustling around in the forests and thickets of the Rocky Mountains this summer with an audio recorder, a camera, and a notebook. He is continuing his research on the macrogeographic variations of the MacGillivray's Warbler, a five-inch long warbler that is hard to see, but easy to hear. Pitocchelli is listening for the geographic differences in the bird's trill.

Reporting from the base of Mt. Rainier in Washington state, Dr. Jay explains his current research, "the goal of the trip is record a sample of songs from MacGillivray's Warblers males at each of these study sites. Once I have a sample from each locality I can compare these samples across the range of this species to search for patterns of variation."

As the MacGillivray's Warbler breeds in the Rocky Mountains, Dr. Jay's fieldwork is taking him to the heart of their breeding range: from the Black Hills of South Dakota to the northern forests of California and Oregon.

He is comparing the results of his first study on the Mourning Warbler to the variation in song in MacGillivray's Warbler. "These two species apparently diverged from a common ancestor over one million years ago during the early Pleistocene glaciation and I would like to describe how their communication systems have diverged since this split," says the biology professor.

Saint Anselm College's own bird man, Dr. Jay, teaches General Biology 101 to freshman as well as ornithology and biostatistics.

MacGillivray's Warbler, bird species Dr. Jay is researchingDr. Jay is reporting on his findings and bird sightings on his blog at There he has posted photos, video, and audio of various birds and bird songincluding the MacGillivray's Warbler.

Want to learn more about Dr. Jay? See the Portrait's fall 2003 story on the bird-loving professor.

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