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Alex E. Jahn

Postdoctoral Researcher
B.S., Lake Superior State University; M.S., Univeristy of Arkansas; Ph.D., University of Florida

Alex Jahn is a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center, studying South American intra-tropical migratory birds, which are birds that spend their entire lives in the tropics. Very little is known about where and why birds migrate at tropical latitudes, nor what the risks to survival are during such movements. Answers to such issues will provide vital information necessary to understanding which types of migrants are at greatest risk from current and future climate and habitat change. Jahn’s current research focuses on the bare-throated bellbird, which migrates in the Atlantic rainforest of southeastern South America. This charismatic species has suffered significant population declines due to the illegal pet trade. Jahn also studies South America's snail kite, a species that migrates in large numbers from southern Brazil northward, though no one yet knows where those birds spend the non-breeding part of the year.

Jahn's projects include:

  • Ecology and conservation of intra-tropical migratory birds in Argentina and Brazil
  • Migratory strategies (habitat use during migration and migratory routes) of bare-throated bellbirds, turdus thrushes and snail kites in Brazil and Argentina
Jahn began studying bird migration in Bolivia, studying birds that migrate across the Amazon Basin. There, he found support for the idea that migratory birds in the tropics of South America track food, such as insects and fruit, which are seasonally available depending on where and when it rains. Later, he began using light-level geolocators, miniature devices that can be attached to small birds to study their migration. Using that technology, he found new patterns of movement of birds across South America, including some of the first evidence that birds visit specific regions to molt their feathers.
Jahn received a bachelor’s of science in fisheries and wildlife management from Lake Superior State University in 1996, a master’s in biology from the University of Arkansas in 2000, and a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary ecology from the University of Florida in 2009. In 2010, Jahn received an International Research Fellowship from the U.S. National Science Foundation to study bird migration in South America and later received a Young Investigator Award from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) to study the evolution and ecology of bird migration in Brazil. In 2014, Jahn received the American Ornithological Society’s Ned K. Johnson Young Investigator Award, which recognizes work by an ornithologist early in his career who shows distinct promise for future leadership in the profession.
Recent Papers: 

A.E. Jahn, D.J. Levey, J.A. Hostetler, and A.M. Mamani, 2010. Determinants of partial bird migration in the Amazon Basin.Journal of Animal Ecology 2010: 79(5).

A.E. Jahn, D.J. Levey, and K.G. Smith, 2004. Reflections across hemispheres: a system-wide approach to New World bird migration. Auk, 121(4).

A.E. Jahn, D.J. Levey, V.R. Cueto, J.P. Ledezma, D.T. Tuero, J.W. Fox, and D. Masson, 2013. Long-distance bird migration within South America revealed by light-level geolocators.Auk, 130(2).