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Early Bird

Assembling the Avian Tree of Life

To explore the Early Bird project in full click here.  You will find there who we are as a group, our findings and publications, and links to our data matrices.

The recognition that all life is connected through genetic relationships and that scientists currently possess the basic tools and techniques for uncovering such patterns of relatedness form the basis for the National Science Foundation’s Assembling the Tree of Life initiative (click here for more info). Such a Tree of Life provides the fundamental framework for interpreting patterns of biological diversity. The first awards from this competition were granted in late 2002 (click here for a list).

Early Bird was one of the first projects to be funded under this initiative and is a large-scale cooperative effort among five institutions in the U.S. to determine the evolutionary relationships among all major groups of birds. The project will make these relationships known to the research community and the public, and make it possible to use these relationships as a comparative framework with which to organize and understand the vast amount of information already available on avian ecology, evolution, physiology, and behavior. ore the data themselves.

The impact of this project on science and society has been far reaching. Birds are among the most prominent and engaging creatures in most ecosystems worldwide. They have been the subject of an extraordinary number and diversity of scientific studies that figure largely in our understanding of the natural world and humanity's place in it. Their position high in many food chains together with their great mobility makes them sensitive indicators of environmental quality, and monitoring of bird populations is widely used to set conservation and management priorities. Their powers of flight, physical beauty and captivating behaviors amaze and inspire us, and birds provide tremendous amounts of recreation for serious hunters and birders, as well as millions of backyard birdwatchers each year. All of these human interactions with birds can be enriched by a better understanding of avian evolutionary history and genetic diversity.

To learn more about DNA research and Early Bird inside The Field Museum, see the Pritzker Laboratory and DNA Discovery Center's web pages