Using forensic data from feather remains, scientists have identified the birds that caused the Jan. 15 airline crash into the Hudson River as migratory Canada geese. The study, published online in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, will help managers better assess how to prevent such strikes in the future.
Led by Peter Marra of the Smithsonian National Zoo's Migratory Bird Center, the researchers applied DNA barcoding, a method that compares a segment of DNA to a database of known genetic material, to the tissue remains of birds extracted from the engines of U.S. Airways flight 1549. Whole feathers were also compared with research specimens at the Smithsonian. The DNA matched that of Canada geese, and the individuals were estimated at about eight pounds each. This information is valuable for engineers to improve the resistance of plane engines to collisions with large birds. But simply uncovering the species of bird isn't enough.
"It's important to not only know what species of birds are involved in collisions, but to also understand the role that migration plays in the larger picture," said Carla Dove, a coauthor and program director at Smithsonian's Feather Identification Laboratory. "The more information we are able to gather in cases like this, the more we will be able to reduce the risks of birdstrikes in the future."
The researchers then used a stable isotope analysis to identify the type of hydrogen found in the birds' feathers. Hydrogen isotopes vary in animals' systems and are useful as geographic markers, since they can reflect the type of vegetation in an animal's diet. The scientists found that the isotopes were not similar to isotopes found in feathers of birds that reside year-round near La Guardia Airport, where the plane crashed. Instead, the isotopes identified the birds as originating in the Labrador region of the Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Knowing that the birds were migratory is crucial to developing management strategies," Marra says. If most airplane collisions involve resident geese, then tactics such as population reduction and habitat modification are appropriate to reduce the majority of birdstrikes. On the other hand, if collisions occur mostly with migrating birds, then other approaches, such as improved radar technology, would be more useful.
The trouble is, says Marra, that the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't require reporting of birdstrikes. More than 7,400 birdstrikes were reported in the US in 2007, but this represents only an estimated 20 percent of total collisions; the other estimated 80 percent go undocumented. Worldwide, birdstrikes cause an estimated $1.1 billion in damage per year, and since 1988 have caused 229 deaths.
"Reporting and recording the frequency and timing of collisions is critical," Marra says. "Otherwise we are missing valuable information that could reveal patterns of frequency, location and species involved – all information that is essential to reducing the frequency of birdstrikes."The Ecological Society of America is the world's largest professional organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United States and around the globe. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has promoted the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. ESA publishes four journals and convenes an annual scientific conference.
Subscribe to ESA press releases by contacting Christine Buckley.
Christine Buckley | EurekAlert!
Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF
Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine