Western’s bird tunnel a world’s first

October 8, 2009 No Comments »

A new bird tunnel has opened at Western to complete the new Advanced Facility for Avian Research.
The new facility is the only closed-loop hypobaric bird wind tunnel in the world.
According to Chris Guglielmo, assistant professor of biology and co-designer of the tunnel, the hypobaric wind tunnel is a large steel structure, which is closed off and sealed tight into a vacuum to simulate flight altitudes for birds.
The AFAR tunnel connects differently conditioned environmental rooms. It has a pump to input a constant renewal of fresh air and controls the humidity and temperature to simulate migratory conditions for birds.
“Birds use fat for fuel [and by observing them] we can study what fuel they use when they fly, how they refuel and what foods on the ground can make the best refueling,” Guglielmo stated.
He mentioned this information can be used to help design better stop-over habitats of migratory birds. The data will have other applications outside of the bird realm, such as helping endurance athletes to learn to use fat instead of carbohydrates as energy sources.
“The goal of AFAR is to study the entire life cycle of birds [and] how environmental conditions affect birds’ behavior, physiology, and ecology,” Guglielmo added.
—Alice Yuan

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