Forensic Ornithology: Webcast and Teaching Resources

Carla Dove

Dr. Carla Dove examining birds from the reference collection at the National Museum of Natural History to get comparison information for identifying bird remains from an airplane-bird collision. Image by David Price, Smithsonian.


The "Bird Detective" webcast featuring Carla Dove aired February 12, 2014. You can watch the recorded version using the link below. 

Watch Webcast Video

Carla's Answers to Student Questions


Dr. Carla Dove is an Ornithologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Join her in analyzing the remains of birds from airplane strikes and other events. See how she and her team use various types of evidence to identify the birds. Marvel at how modern techniques such as DNA barcoding can complement old-fashioned comparisons of feathers. Consider what bird remains tell you about populations of birds over time. Learn how Carla and her team are making your flights safer while also improving management of natural populations of birds.


Use the related resources below to take your students on a journey to understand why ornithologists study bird remains. Design an assessment for your class.

Lessons Printable, inquiry-based lessons that teachers prepare and facilitate in the classroom using everyday materials

Literacy Resources Reading selections to boost science literacy

Posters and Worksheets Printable images and one-page activities

Science Expert Role Models Links to inspiring science experts at the Smithsonian and beyond

  • Carla Dove Ornithologist at the National Museum of Natural History
  • Nor Faridah Dahlan Ornithology research assistant at the National Museum of Natural History
  • Marcy Heacker Ornithology research assistant at the National Museum of Natural History
  • James Whatton Ornithology research assistant at the National Museum of Natural History

At the National Museum of Natural History A window into what's available at the museum

Q?rius Explore ornithology through Q?rius, a new way to experience the research, collections, and science at the National Museum of Natural History

  • Collections Explore birds in Q?rius, digitized and available for investigation from your classroom or at home
  • School Field Trip Schedule a field trip to participate in " Bird Srike Whodunit?," which invites students to solve a bird-aircraft collision case


The Ornithology-Dove Webcast Package supports students in meeting the NGSS Performance Expectations listed below by offering a set of resources that integrate science concepts with science practice skills.

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity

  • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
  • MS-ESS3-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century

MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

MS-ETS-1 Engineering Design

  • MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.