In this, the very first episode of the Eyes on Conservation Podcast, we talk with Wild Lens co-founder and Raptor Biologist Neil Paprocki. Neil helped found Wild Lens back in 2011 and served as the producer/director of the half hour documentary Bluebird Man, which has been screened at film festivals across North America and was broadcast on Idaho Public Television. In addition to his work with Wild Lens, Neil is a recent graduate of Boise State University’s master’s program in Raptor Biology. This is a unique program, in fact it’s the only one of it’s kind! Most recently, Neil spent three months living on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska working with nestling Gyrfalcons – the world’s largest falcon species.
Our interview with Neil focuses on his work as a Raptor Biologist. Neil discusses the research that he conducted for his master’s thesis at BSU, which involved the study of wintering raptor populations in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area. This nationally designated conservation area was set aside because of it’s high density of nesting raptor species, but Neil’s study focused on the raptor species that spend the winter months in this unique area. He made a pretty fascinating discovery early on in his field research and we dig into what he discovered and the impact that it had on his research. We also talk about the management implications of Neil’s research and how wildlife management agencies are already using this study to aid in management decisions just six months after publication.
Neil also talks about his recent role in the Peregrine Fund’s Gyrfalcon Conservation Program. This is intended to be a long term monitoring project, with the goal of determining the effect of climate change on this falcon species that breeds exclusively in the Arctic. Neil was working with fellow BSU Raptor Biology master’s student Bryce Robinson (check out Bryce’s excellent blog Ornithologi), and the two of them were tasked with setting up this research program for its first year of collecting data on the breeding habits of the Gyrfalcon.
Central to the Gyrfalcon Conservation Project is the inter-relationship between the Gyrfalcon and its preferred prey, the Ptarmigan. Back in 2012 Neil actually spent a few months on the North Slope of Alaska working on a research project focusing on Ptarmigan. Neil worked with Wild Lens to produce a short video about this Ptarmigan research project called Ptarmigan in a Changing World – maybe we’ll do a future episode with the PI for this project – Katie Christie.
Lastly, Neil talks about his research goals for the future as he is about to begin a new job as the Conservation Biologist for Hawkwatch International.
Tags: alaska, Arctic, arctic raptors, birds of prey, Boise State, gyrfalcon, raptor, raptor biology, raptor conservation, raptor research, seward peninsula, Snake River Birds of Prey, wintering raptors