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U Biologist Named 2011 Emerging Explorer

CAGAN Tracking

National Geographic has selected University of Utah biologist, ornithologist and conservation ecologist Çağan Hakki Şekercioğlu as one of fourteen Emerging Explorers for 2011.

The distinction recognizes Dr. Şekercioğlu among the “uniquely gifted and inspring adventurers, scientists and storytellers making a significant contributions to world knowledge through exploration while still early in their careers” as announced in the magazine’s news release May 17, 2011.  The award also provides $10,000 for continuing his research work and further exploration.

Dr. Şekercioğlu is assistant professor of biology at the U, as well as director of the Turkish environmental organization KuzeyDoga.  He studies the causes and consequences of vanishing bird populations around the globe, and he spearheads conservation projects with local communities to protect threatened birds and bird habitats. 

The profile in National Geographic begins:  “By the end of this century, 25 percent of all bird species may be extinct. ‘That’s 2,500 unique species,’ Çağan Şekercioğlu …warns. ‘Many pressures that will ultimately affect other animals, even people, are happening to birds first. They are, quite literally, the canaries in the coal mine.’

Şekercioğlu not only documents the trend, but also works to reverse it by integrating his work as a highly cited scientist, director of an award-winning grassroots conservation organization and accomplished wildlife photographer.” 

Read the rest of the profile on the website of National Geographic to learn more about him and his work.  The awards will be presented in Washington DC in June and detailed in the June 2011 issue of the magazine.

Photo details:

Camera:  January 2004, in the Angola Ornithological Expedition just after the civil war ended. We were looking for rare birds unrecorded for 30 years. I discovered the first immature of the Gabela akalat and we observed over 300 species.  Six mines went off along our itinerary while we were there, but we did not get hit.

Eagle:  In Igdir, eastern Turkey. At Turkey’s first vulture restaurant we established where steppe eagles like this one also visit. This one was injured and after a month-long rehabilitation by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry officials, I checked its health and released it back to the wild on 2010 World Biodiversity Day (May 22). We’ll celebrate it again this weekend.

Snowfield: Looking for the localized Caucasian Snowcock in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia (country) in May 2009. They come down the mountain during blizzards so that’s when we went climbing to look for them.

Tracking (featured photo):  Radio-tracking forest birds in Costa Rica in 2003 to study their use of human-dominated agricultural habitats with scattered trees.