The future of the United States economy, national security and environmental quality all depend on increasing our reliance on renewable energy.

Todd Katzner, West Virginia University assistant professor in the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources department, and Phil Turk, assistant professor of statistics, are working on a project to provide a framework for safer and less controversial development of wind power.

The mid-Atlantic region is a primary focus for wind power development. The region also holds a special responsibility for the conservation of the eastern population of North America’s golden eagles. These birds breed in northeastern Canada and winter in the central and southern Appalachians.

Katzner and Turk are trying to guide the development of wind power as an alternative to fuels, while keeping the migratory pathways safe for golden eagles.

“The goal of this project is to develop high-resolution spatial maps showing migration corridors of and habitat use by eastern golden eagles in regions of high potential for wind development. These maps can then be used to guide safer development of wind energy, while also protecting a suite of species similar to golden eagles,” Katzner said.

To identify ways to mitigate the impacts of wind power development on eagles Katzner, Turk and their collaborators will use a multi-step strategy:

• First, they will expand existing fluid-flow models of raptor migration for the eastern U.S. to identify broad-scale migration patterns

• Second, they will use completely novel high-resolution bird tracking devices to discover routes of passage and detailed flight behavior of individual golden eagles throughout the eastern U.S.

• Finally, they will integrate these data and models to predict population-level migration patterns and individual flight behavior on migration

This strategy will allow them to develop models that generate probable regional maps showing relative risk to birds from wind development.

Katzner said this is one of the first such research projects anywhere in the world, and the only one of its type in the eastern United States.

This work represents an important collaboration between Katzner and his team of field biologists and geographic information system, or GIS, modelers, and Turk, a statistician whose understanding of analysis of spatial and temporal patterns in natural systems is critical to the success of the project.

“The unique data set, being collected by the high-frequency GPS-GSM (global positioning system-global system for mobile communications) telemetry systems, this research team is using presents special analysis opportunities for a statistician. I have a background in biology so I was also naturally interested in this project,” said Turk.

“We believe that this work is a recognized priority for the central Appalachian region and is explicitly called for in, and meets the goals of, numerous state wildlife conservation plans,” Katzner said. “Protecting golden eagles, and the suite of slope soaring species for which they are an umbrella, is an important conservation goal. Future generations demand both wind energy and golden eagles.”

The final goal of this research is to create a region-wide map of the relative risk to eagles of the development of wind power.

These maps will allow for specific recommendations regarding the development of new wind farms and operation of existing wind farms.


CONTACT: Rebecca Herod, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
304-293-7405, ext. 5251,