W&M Biology professor Dan Cristol was called on to respond to the increasing reports of mass die-offs of birds and other animals, in an ABC/Nightline report by Nick Watt (and earlier in a USAToday story). The entire piece is rather fun in a tongue-in-cheek way, but you can forward to minute 4:30 of the video below to see two clips where Dan Cristol disavows a wider natural calamity in the works.
What caused thousands of blackbirds to die at once in Arkansas? W&M Biology Professor Dan Cristol weighs in.
USA Today's science writer Elizabeth Weise called on our professor Dan Cristol for an expert opinion on the recent news story that thousands of red-winged blackbirds were found dead on News Years day this week. At this point, lightening or fireworks seem to be the best guess. In the article Trauma cited in mysterious Ark. bird kill, Dan Cristol is cited as providing information on what factors can be eliminated as suspects in the massive die-off:
Many theories being floated about causes of the die off can be discounted, said Dan Cristol, a professor of biology at the Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. The birds couldn't have eaten a fast-acting pesticide because they would have eaten it during the day and died long before they began to roost at night, he said. A slower-acting pesticide wouldn't have affected them all at the same time. A hail storm is unlikely because they would have had to be flying for that to happen, and at that hour red-wing blackbirds are asleep. (Elizabeth Weise, USA Today, January 2, 2011).
Last summer, Cristol's students were featured in the William and Mary news story A Double Mystery about a study of rusty blackbirds on campus. More information about Dan Cristol's work and his students is found on the IIBBS webpage that details what's happening with the Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies, a group founded by W&M biology professors Dan Cristol and John Swaddle.