Science Café Cleveland presents


Birds and aircrafts:

Fighting for airspace in ever more crowded skies



APRIL 11, 2011




Richard A. Dolbeer

(Science Advisor, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services) 


Sandra E. Wright

(National Wildlife Strike Database Manager, U.S. Department of Agriculture)




Bird and other wildlife collisions with aircraft (wildlife strikes, of which 98% involve birds) are an increasing safety and economic concern to civil and military aviation worldwide, costing well over $1 billion each year.  Over 220 aircraft have been destroyed by wildlife strikes worldwide since 1988, the most notable of which was the Airbus 320 which landed in the Hudson River in January 2009 after hitting a flock of Canada geese.  Wildlife strikes with civil aircraft reported to the Federal Aviation Administration increased from about 1,800 in 1990 to over 9,100 in 2009. 


Three factors have synergistically interacted to increase the problem of bird strikes in the past 30 years.  First, populations of most large (>1.8 kg body mass) bird species in North America, such as Canada geese and bald eagles, have increased dramatically and adapted to urban environments such as airports.  Second, commercial air traffic has increased at an annual rate of about 2.0% from 1980-2009.  Third, birds are less able to detect and avoid the quieter and faster 2-engine turbofan aircraft in use today compared to older aircraft.  Research to mitigate the risk of bird and other wildlife strikes is conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Research Station near Sandusky, Ohio.  This research includes bird-detecting radar, enhancements in aircraft visibility to birds, and various methods to exclude or repel birds from airports.  The goal is safer skies for all who fly, birds and people!




Dr. Richard Dolbeer retired in September 2008 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture after a 36-year career as a scientist with the Wildlife Services (WS) program.  Richard was project leader of the National Wildlife Research Center’s Ohio Field Station for 30 years and founder of the “Wildlife Hazards to Aviation” research project.  For the past 6 years, he served as National Coordinator of the WS Airport Wildlife Hazards Program.  He has published over 170 scientific papers and book chapters related to human-wildlife conflicts. 


He was the 2005 winner of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “Excellence in Aviation Research” award.  He has been recognized twice with “Excellence in Research” awards by the Jack Berryman Institute for Wildlife Damage Management and is the 2008 winner of the Caesar Kleberg Award for Applied Wildlife Research, presented by The Wildlife Society.  Richard served as Chairperson of Bird Strike Committee-USA from 1997-2008.  Richard received degrees from the University of the South (B.A., Biology), the University of Tennessee (M.S., Zoology), and Colorado State University (Ph.D., Wildlife Biology).  


Dr. Sandra Wright, National Wildlife Strike Database Manager, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services. Sandra (Sandy) Wright has worked for USDA since 1995 as manager of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) National Wildlife Strike Database for Civil Aviation. She is a member of the local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter and has co-piloted on countless trips in a Piper Cherokee. In addition to managing the database, Sandy writes articles and presents talks to promote an awareness of the need for reporting wildlife strikes. She works closely with FAA personnel and field biologists nationwide to reduce the wildlife threat at airports. She received her BS degree in Education from Northern Illinois University and her Masters in Education from Chicago State University.




WHERE: The Tasting Room at Great Lakes Brewing Company

(Located at 2701 Carroll Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44113)


WHEN: April 11, 2011

Drinks at 6:30 pm, discussion starts around 7:00 pm


WHO: Sponsored by Case Western Reserve University chapter of Sigma Xi, WCPN ideastream, and Great Lakes Brewing Company



Click here to download a pdf of event flyer