Who We Are

Dr. Steven Latta, Director of Conservation and Field Research 

Dr. Steven C. Latta is Director of Conservation and Field Research at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. A native of Michigan, he was educated at Kalamazoo College (BA), University of Michigan (MS), and University of Missouri-Columbia (PhD in Avian Ecology). After graduating in 2000, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missouri-St. Louis where he studied with Dr. Robert Ricklefs the evolution and diversification of avian malaria across Caribbean islands. He then served for 4 years as the Director of the Latin American Program at Point Reyes Bird Observatory (CA) where he developed long term monitoring programs in many countries, and trained hundreds of locally-based biologists and naturalists in standardized bird monitoring techniques. He has been at the National Aviary since 2006.

Dr. Latta has worked in the Caribbean islands and Latin America for more than 25 years where his research has focused on the winter ecology of migratory birds, and understanding how migrant and resident species respond to natural and anthropogenic changes to their habitat. Other work has focused on the ecology and conservation of threatened endemics, bird use of riparian areas, the value of early-successional and agricultural habitats for birds, and population dynamics in high Andean habitats in Ecuador.

A focus of current research uses the Louisiana Waterthrush as a model species to study population dynamics and carry-over effects on both the temperate breeding and Neotropical over-wintering grounds. He is also evaluating how the degradation of streams leads to population reductions in this riparian-obligate species, with results helping to understand the environmental consequences of important water quality management issues including acid precipitation control, acid mine drainage, and the use of hydraulic fracturing to access natural gas deposits.

Dr. Latta has authored several books on the birds of Hispaniola, has published >125 articles and book chapters, and continues to dedicate himself to training young biologists in developing countries in field research and monitoring techniques, and educating the general public on the importance of conservation. Steve also teaches field courses through the University of Pittsburgh where he is an Adjunct Faculty member, and serves on graduate student committees from many universities.

 

Robert Mulvihill, Ornithologist 


Robert S. Mulvihill, the National Aviary’s Ornithologist credits his mother’s casual backyard bird feeding hobby for his early interest in bird watching. In particular, it was her copies of the books American Birds in Color, by Hal Harrison (1948), T. Gilbert Pearson’s 1944 classic Birds of America, and Chester Reed’s ground-breaking pocket-sized guide to Land Birds East of the Mississippi that were his entrée into the world of birds and bird watching.  The deal was sealed when his family built a cabin on Stoughton Lake in Jennerstown, Somerset County, PA—from then on birds he knew well on paper came to life before his eyes every weekend!  It also put him geographically closer to Powdermill Nature Reserve, which he and his mother visited for the first time when he was 14 years old.  

After a summer education internship at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Bob began volunteering at Powdermill regularly in fall 1978 when he was in college. He received his B.S. in Education (secondary education/biology) from the University of Pittsburgh in 1980, and he was hired full-time as a bander and education specialist at Powdermill in 1983.  While working full-time, Bob earned an M.S. in Biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1993.

Bob has been an active member of the birding and bird conservation community in western Pennsylvania for more than forty years.  He began his ornithological career as a volunteer at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the biological field station of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  He was subsequently hired there as a bird-banding assistant and education specialist, working at the world renowned Powdermill bird-banding station.  During his nearly 30-year tenure there, Bob banded several hundred thousand birds from hummingbirds to hawks.  He has conducted long-term field research on several bird species, including Dark-eyed Junco, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and Louisiana Waterthrush.  His research on migratory birds has taken him to Mexico and Central America.  He has authored more than thirty peer-reviewed scientific articles, edited volumes on the conservation of Pennsylvania birds, written dozens of popular articles about birds and nature for newspapers and magazines, and given hundreds of talks about birds and bird-banding research throughout the United States, as well as Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Canada.  

Mulvihill has extensive experience with “citizen science” programs to advance the study of birds and increase people’s appreciation of them.  He served as a regional coordinator and species account author for the first Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania from 1983-1989, and he recently served as the statewide project coordinator and co-editor of the Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania from 2004-2010).  In 2013, Mulvihill brought Neighborhood Nestwatch, a citizen-science project developed by the Smithsonian Institution, to backyard bird-lovers in the Greater Pittsburgh area.  He also participates in Project Owlnet, banding Northern Saw-whet Owls at a public park during their migration through western Pennsylvania; the Hummer/Bird Study Group, banding “winter” hummingbirds in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.  He regularly organizes and takes part in several local Christmas Bird Counts and leads dozens of bird walks throughout the Pittsburgh area. 

Mulvihill takes great pride in having trained and mentored more than a hundred students throughout his career, many of whom have gone on to pursue graduate degrees and lead productive careers in ornithology and conservation biology.  He has received awards in recognition of outstanding efforts on behalf of bird conservation from the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (W. E. Clyde Todd Award) and the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology (Golden Pileated Award and Earl Poole Award).