Birds of Guyana webinar

Dr. Braun gave a webinar in August which provided an overview of his conservation work in Guyana, including details on birds in Guyana. If you’re interested in the Red Siskin Initiative, conservation in general, or birding in Guyana, take a look!


Kevin and Mike return from Panama

In February, PhD student Kevin Bennett headed down to Panama with Dr. Braun to get set up for a 3+ month field season studying how light and color impact sexual selection in manakins. Because of the COVID pandemic, however, they returned to D.C. last month with data from an abbreviated season. Science happens in the real world, and sometimes that means putting it on hold for the sake of safety. Kevin will be back again next spring, undeterred.

Before he left Panama, Kevin’s motion-sensor camera traps recorded manakin behavior and incidentally captured other species as well. Below are some videos and photos from the season.

A manakin display, male and female. Males make the snapping sound by smashing their wings together.

A male clearing his display court.

Camera “bycatch.” Olive-backed Quail-doves.

Jaguarundi, a native cat species.

Tamandua, a species of anteater.

Northern naked-tailed armadillo. This species is listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN.

Kevin enjoys the view from a coffee shop near the field house.

Dr. Braun holds a manakin. Though it’s genetic background is that of a White-collared Manakin, it has a yellow collar due to introgression from Golden-collared Manakins.

Searching for manakin leks on steep slopes gets tiring. Sometimes you need a coconut break.

Crossing the Quebrada Boca Chica

More than manakins come out of the mist nets. This White-whiskered Puffbird was a treat.

This Red-capped Manakin female’s dull feet gave her away as being from a different genus. Manakins in the genus Manacus have bright orange legs and feet.

Red Siskin trade and social networks

Endangered Red Siskins are still trafficked in their native Venezuela and here in the United States. They are kept as pets and cross-bred to make red canaries. Dr. Braun and colleagues in the Red Siskin Initiative are working to understand how trading in Red Siskins works, how to raise the birds in captivity, and ultimately how to reintroduce and protect the birds in the wild.

Yesterday, Smithsonian Magazine published a story that describes some recent work by Dr. Braun, lab alumnus Dr. Brian Coyle, and colleagues in the RSI who analyzed social networks in the Venezuelan pet trade to better understand challenges facing Red Siskin conservation. It also expands on the current state of the RSI.

Read the article here.

Read the social network study, which was published in Animal Conservation, here.

Kevin presents at Evolution

In June, current and former Braun lab members attended the Evolution conference in Providence, RI, ate seafood, and talked about science.

Current PhD student Kevin Bennett presented work pioneered by former postdoc H.C. Lim and continued by H.C., Mike, and Kevin on the genetic basis of sexual traits that differ between Golden-collared and White-collared Manakins in Panama. Take a look at this paper and this paper for some background on the study system.

Congressional night at NMNH

Last night was the Smithsonian’s Congressional Night, which rotates between museums each year. This year, NMNH hosted senators, representatives, families, and staff from Capitol Hill to visit the museum and learn about the science we do here.

The event was well-timed with the recent opening of the new Deep Time exhibit, so members of Congress got to see the museum’s newly unveiled fossils as well as information on the history of the planet and how humans are changing it. More on Deep Time here:

The Braun Lab was represented at the event, as well. Mike was in the fossil hall telling  visitors about the dinosaurs still alive today — birds!

December Phylopizza

Our December PhyloPizza event will take place on Tuesday, December 11th, at 5:30pm in the Vertebrate Zoology Seminar Room (WG-33). Dr. Klaus-Peter Koepfli will give a talk entitled “Applying genomics to inform conservation management of ex situ populations of the critically endangered dama gazelle (Nanger dama).” Join us!

Photo by Budhan Pukazhenthi



Red Siskin Initiative in the news

Our international collaboration to save Red Siskins got some press yesterday! Read on below to learn about how we are conserving siskin habitat through Bird Friendly coffee farms.



Read more about the Red Siskin Initiative here:

Read more about Bird Friendly Coffee here:

Welcome, Shauna!

The Braun Lab welcomes its newest member, Shauna Rasband. Shauna is a PhD student at the University of Maryland – College Park. She got her Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and comes to us most recently from the Smithsonian Center for Conservation and Sustainability. Read more about Shauna’s research on the People page.