AU Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on Ohio’s Sandhill Cranes

AU Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on Ohio’s Sandhill Cranes

3/13/17 ASHLAND, Ohio – The fourth and final event in the 2016-2017 Ashland University Environmental Lecture Series, with a theme of “In Our Own Backyard, Year 2,” will be a presentation by Dr. Laura Kearns, wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Olentangy Research Station in Delaware, Ohio.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held Thursday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall in the Dwight Schar College of Education. Kearns will speak on “Sandhill Cranes of the Black Fork and Beyond: Recent Research Findings.”

Sandhill cranes have been frequent visitors to the Black Fork Wetlands in recent years. The population of breeding sandhills has been growing throughout the state of Ohio and the region. The Ohio Department of Natural Resouces (ODNR) – Division of Wildlife has been involved with research recently to help understand the biology of our local cranes. Dr. Kearns will provide an overview of findings from these projects, which have included research on habitat use and movement ecology. 

Dr. Patricia Saunders, director of the Environmental Science Program, says the idea for this presentation was motivated by interest in the Sandhill crane families at the Black Fork Wetlands Preserve and residing in other natural areas of Ohio.

“Sandhill cranes remain an uncommon bird in Ohio, but their population has been expanding in recent years. In 2010, our newsletter shared the news of two crane families at the preserve. They had established themselves in the previous few years. We were aware of the ODNR project, that had Division of Wildlife specialists working together with other researchers to learn more about these large, heron-like birds, specifically where they migrate to once it gets cold enough each winter. We are delighted to have this opportunity to learn more about project findings and these fascinating birds,” Saunders said.

As a wildlife biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Kearns oversees projects with wetland and forest birds, in addition to several raptor species. Her research interests include predator-prey interactions, urban ecology, and avian conservation and management. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Kenyon College, a Master of Science in Resource Ecology Management from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Science from The Ohio State University.

Kearns has worked for a variety of non-profit organizations with a focus on avian conservation and research, and her current projects include researching the behavioral responses of songbirds to information regarding nest predators and understanding predator-prey dynamics within urbanizing habitats. She loves traveling and birding, and recently observed megapodes and bowerbirds on a trip to Australia.

The Environmental Lecture Series was established at Ashland University after the Environmental Science program was implemented in 1991-92. Now in its 25th year, the lecture series was designed to support the Environmental Science program by allowing students, faculty and members of North Central Ohio communities to interact with leaders in environmental science and policy. Over the years, the lecture series has generated significant campus and community involvement and support. Current support for the lecture series is provided by a grant from the Lubrizol Foundation, the National Science Foundation, individual donations and additional support from Ashland University. Past series have been supported by AU and grants from the GTE Foundation and the Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation.

For information about the spring series events and any updates on the lecture series, visit the website at:

Ashland University, ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2017, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.                                                                                ###


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