Northwestern wildlife biology student explores urban pigeons in Alva

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Northwestern wildlife biology student explores urban pigeons in Alva

April 12, 2010

 Chris Cole
Chris Cole is taking advantage of Northwestern’s independent study program and learning more about wildlife biology.  Independent study is open to any student and is tailored toward the student’s interests.

 Pigeon with radio transmitter
Chris Cole has attached radio transmitters to three pigeons that make their home in downtown Alva.  By using these transmitters, he is able to track their range and habitat.

Chris Cole, a Granby, Mo., senior majoring in wildlife biology at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, has been completing research on his independent study project titled “Spacio-temperal analysis of the Urban Pigeon.” This project focuses on the flying range and habitat of three pigeons located in downtown Alva.

His future plans include working with wildlife, and this independent study project has given him the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to track animals to see habitats and patterns.

To begin the research, Cole purchased a radio transmitter that was made for falcons. These telemeters typically cost $300-$500, and Cole and Dr. Aaron Place, assistant professor of biology, were able to find and purchase one for $150.

Cole said he needed an animal that could carry a radio device. He also wanted an animal that was not nocturnal.
“Pigeons are a common bird, and they are always available to study,” Cole said.

Cole has worked on this project all semester. He explained that he chose three pigeons at random to follow, track and use for the research project.

“Apparently, I picked the ‘bum’ pigeons of Alva because I expected more range in their daily movement,” Cole said. “They just fly around the building, and then return to their perch.”

His hypothesis was based on a Switzerland report where the range of the pigeons was estimated to travel one to five miles a day in the city.

“I expected the tracking to be easier and the pigeons to move more,” Cole said. “It became simpler once I became familiar with the equipment.”

Cole believes this research project has helped him become more methodical about note taking, and he’s been able to make improvements based upon his ideas.

“Science is a quest for knowledge,” Cole said. “We are always looking for a better way.”

Place wanted Cole to experience science from the very beginning – research, acquiring equipment, research process and a written scientific paper.

“The best way to learn science is to do it,” Place said. “Chris Cole has done an outstanding job.”

Northwestern’s independent study program is available to any student. Individuals will receive one credit hour with the curriculum tailored toward each student’s desire.

“Independent study has opened the doors to help me learn more about wildlife biology,” Cole said.

“Students can learn wildlife biology at Northwestern,” Place said. “We are equipped to teach wildlife biology to students. Independent study is one of the unique experiences available at Northwestern.”

To learn more about the science department’s independent study program, contact Place at (580) 327-8673 or