THE OWL RESEARCH INSTITUTE
© Ronan Dugan
BOOTS ON THE GROUND RESEARCH
It's one of the core tenets of the ORI. We spend hundreds of hours each year in the field and pride ourselves on the ability to operate in a variety of landscapes, uncertain conditions, and the ever-present logistical challenges that accompany working outdoors with wild animals. We often experience exhaustion, frustration, and exasperation. Things break, cars die on the side of the mountain, essential equipment gets stolen, and weather can stall our efforts at any time. Sometimes it all seems to happen at once.
But when it's all said and done, we love what we do. For all the challenges that we face in the field, we have at least as many moments that inspire us to look further and to go farther. We are grateful for the opportunity to study these owls in their natural environments and are compelled by each and every one of these species to continue to try to understand them.
The ORI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to owl and wildlife research, conservation, and education.
It all began with a fascination for owls. In 1988 when the Owl Research Institute became official, we didn't really imagine ourselves as a conservation group. It was just about the owls.
Climate issues, habitat loss and declining owl populations, however, have forced us to approach research in a new light.
More and more, a substantial portion of our work focuses on understanding causes behind trends in the data. It is our hope that this information be used to support better decisions for natural resources management.
After 30 years of field work and research, it is less about discovering owls, more about protecting their future.
WHAT WE DO
We focus our time in the field, with the owls, making observations and logging data. Our commitment to long-term research is rooted in natural history and requires patience, dedication, and a vast awareness of ecosystems at large.
Our studies are conducted in natural, uncontrolled habitats. Wild owls are extremely difficult to find, not to mention capture, for research – none of our research is conducted on captive owls and we are very conscious of handling times. Study sites are always subject to change, due to owl behavior, migration, or human encroachment, and are unpredictable.
We share findings with resource managers, scientists, and the public, to improve environmental decision making. Our data assists with forest management plans, habitat conservation efforts, and the listing and de-listing of critical species.
The ORI intentionally maintains a small staff. Being small poses challenges, especially during the busy field season, but it also allows us to remain field-based and efficient. It would be remiss, however, to think that we do it alone.
Ranchers and community members keep us informed about what they see in their barns, fields, and creek beds; volunteers, interns, and seasonal employees contribute hundreds of hours every year to our projects; cam watchers send us important video highlights; and talented photographers capture the owls in the most incredible ways
They are all vital to our success. Their work and dedication are invaluable to us and we thank them all.
The ORI is headquartered out of a farmhouse near the small town of Charlo, Montana. Located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, we are surrounded by an ecologically diverse landscape containing unique habitat for most of Montana's 15 owl species. Important neighbors include the National Bison Range and the Ninepipe Wildlife Refuge.
The Institute houses office space, living quarters for visiting professionals, a lab and classroom, a writing hut, and many outbuildings and barns for equipment.
From the ORI researchers have close access to field sites and program participants have opportunity for in-the-field experience and wildlife observation. While most of our studies are based in western Montana, each summer we migrate to Barrow, Alaska to conduct our Snowy Owl research.
OWL RESEARCH INSTITUTE STAFF
Denver Holt is the founder and president of the ORI, a nonprofit he started 30 years ago. Today, it is one of the premier owl research centers in the world, just as Holt is one of the leading experts.
Holt is a widely published author and has been featured in countless articles from National Geographic to the New York Times, as well as many television programs. He has educated and entertained people from all walks of life and enjoys guiding, meeting new people, and expanding his knowledge of wildlife and the natural world.
Matt Larson is a graduate of the University of Montana. He has worked as a research biologist with the Owl Research Institute since 2008. He is a lifelong naturalist and avid outdoorsmen.
His research, focused primarily on North American owls, has afforded him the opportunity to travel and work throughout western Montana and Alaska. He shares his passion for field biology, natural history, and long-term research through public speaking, scientific papers, and as a natural history guide. He lives with his wife and daughters in Missoula, MT.
Liberty DeGrandpre is the Development Coordinator for the Owl Research Institute. A Montana native, she has lived in Charlo, just down the road from the ORI, for 20 years.
Liberty is a graduate of the University of Montana - with a substantial portion of that time spent at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She has worked in business, design, and vocational training.
Liberty enjoys skiing, boating on Flathead Lake, and traveling with her husband and three kids. She brings energy and enthusiasm to every project she heads.
STEVE HIRO, MD
Steve Hiro has been a volunteer with the Owl Research Institute for over 20 years. He assists with all field projects but has a special interest in Pygmy Owls - dedicating hundreds of hours each year to finding, observing, and documenting their behavior.
Steve is a retired heart surgeon. He connected with the ORI when he won a Day in the Field auction item at a fundraiser. Since that time, his involvement continues grows and his knowledge continually expands. Steve leads the Pygmy Owl study has been instrumental in documenting several new discoveries about their behavior.
The Owl Research Institute is dedicated to owl conservation through research and education.
We conduct long-term research on owls, their prey species, and their relationship to the habitat in which they live. We use these data to help maintain viable populations. Additionally, we collaborate on strategic projects; educate the public about owls; and provide research data to land management agencies and conservation partners.
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FIELD DAYS DONATED