About Me


Hello and welcome!  I am an evolutionary biologist (ethologist) and historian at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) and a PhD candidate in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science (BEES) at Drexel University. I am also the Editor of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC) and its journal Cassinia, and resident caretaker of the Wyck Historic House & Garden (Philadelphia, PA).

I am fascinated by secretive species that inhabit dense thickets, that seem to be always just beyond our observation, and for which even the sexes are sometimes impossible to distinguish in the field. I use video and audio recorders, genetic analysis, tracking units, radio telemetry, etc., to test hypotheses about the proximate and ultimate causes of behavior (see Tinbergen’s four questions), and reconstruct their evolutionary histories.

I use the same data-driven approach to study the history and sociology of American science, by searching for and exposing lost and/or unknown primary sources that shed new light on the past. I recently published five lost letters of John J. Audubon, including the original American prospectus for The Birds of America; and relocated the lost type specimen of Western Meadowlark, which was missing for over 150 years after Audubon collected it in 1843 on his last expedition. I live in the historic Wyck house in Philadelphia, where many early American scientists visited and socialized.



PhD candidate / Dean’s Fellow
Drexel University, Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science – Advised by Jason D. Weckstein

Graduate Research Associate
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

MS, Natural Resources, Delaware State University
Graduated 2014, Cumulative GPA:  4.0 / 4.0
Thesis: “Kin structure and mating system of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens) in the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont” – Advised by Christopher M. Heckscher


BA, Sociology, Pennsylvania State University
Graduated May 2004, Cumulative GPA:  3.4 / 4.0

No Degree, Music Recording Technology & Vocal Performance, Lebanon Valley College
Attended September 2000 – May 2001


Devon Preparatory School, Devon, PA
(Roman Catholic, Piarist Order)


RACN, Nicaragua, March-April 2017.

General collecting expedition to two sites in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACN), in collaboration with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the Biodiversity Institute at University of Kansas (KU). We collected data-rich specimens in the humid rainforests of Parque Nacional Saslaya, and the pine savannas and gallery forests of Alamikamba.

Pennsylvania, USA, May-June 2016.

Coordinator of the Philadelphia Breeding Bird Census, the first systematic city-wide survey of breeding birds in the place where American ornithology began.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, June-July 2015.

Crew Leader of field expedition to collect genetic samples of Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus), conduct avian point-count surveys, and vegetation surveys, in poorly-explored areas of the province. Research coordinated by the State University of New York, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the New York State Museum.

Delaware, USA, January 2011–October 2013.

Intensive two year field-video-genetic study of the mating system of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens) in the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont region, for my graduate thesis at Delaware State University (MS, Natural Resources), under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Heckscher, with whom I have published several papers on Veery behavior (e.g., Halley and Heckscher 2012; 2013; Halley et al. 2016Heckscher et al. 2015).

Sapzurro, Colombia, October 2012.

Christopher Heckscher (Delaware State University) and I spent a week mist-netting and banding migratory and resident birds with Dr. Nicholas Bayly (Asociación SELVA, Bogota, Colombia), at his lowland rainforest field site in the Darién Gap.

Karnataka, India, September 2009–January 2010.

I lived on an organic spice plantation in the Western Ghats, hosted by Drs. Anurag and Sujata Goel. My studies of metachrosis in rainforest frogs on the property resulted in range expansions for two poorly known Raorchestes species (see Halley and Goel 2012).

Nevada, USA, April 2006 – July 2008.

For three consecutive breeding seasons, I assisted Dr. Aaron Holmes (Oregon State University) in a study of how songbird and small mammal communities in Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge respond to and recover from wildfire. This project spawned an independent study of biparental incubation and allofeeding by Brewer’s Sparrows (see Halley et al. 2015).

Guàrico, Venezuela, September – November 2007.

I assisted Dr. Karl Berg (Cornell University) in studies of vocal learning and communication at nests of the Green-rumped Parrotlet (Forpus passerinus). The study was the first to document vocal learning in wild parrots. I netted, banded and bled adults and nestlings, conducted playback experiments, cross-fostered nests, and monitored behavior via digital video. See “How A Parrot Learns Its Name in the Wild” on YouTube

Hazeva, Israel, September 2005 – December 2005.

I assisted Drs. Amotz and Avishag Zahavi (Tel Aviv University) in their studies of ‘altruistic’ behavior in Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps), and learned firsthand about the Handicap Principle and the evolution of costly signals.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama, February 2005 – June 2005.

I assisted Dr. Adam Stein (Syracuse University) in study of signal evolution in an avian hybrid zone (collared manakins, Manacus spp.). We lived in remote jungle with a small indigenous community (Guaymí). We located leks, and then mist-netted, banded, measured, and bled adult manakins, and monitored courtship displays via infra-red video and behavioral observation.


  • 2016/17 — Curatorial Assistant, Dept. of Ornithology; Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
  • 2010; 2017–present — Resident Caretaker, Wyck Historic House & Garden (Philadelphia, PA; manuscripts, rare artifacts)
  • American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY; ornithology)
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC; ornithology)
  • Delaware Museum of Natural History (Wilmington, DE; ornithology)
  • American Philosophical Society Library (Philadelphia, PA; manuscripts)
  • Haverford College Library (Haverford, PA; manuscripts)
  • Wagner Free Institute of Science (Philadelphia, PA; ornithology)


See publications page or my profile on ResearchGate.


  • 2017 — William L. McLean III Fellowship — $27,000 — Drexel University, Dept. of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science
  • 2016 — Julian Potter Award — Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC)
  • 2016 — Teaching Excellence Award (nominee) — Drexel University
  • 2016 — Travel Award — $300 — Drexel University
  • 2015 — Elected ‘Fellow of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC)’
  • 2015 — Dean’s Fellowship —$10,000— Drexel University, College of Arts and Sciences
  • 2015 — Carbon Footprint Cup — 32nd Annual World Series of Birding, New Jersey Audubon
  • 2012 — Best Oral Presentation — Delaware State University, Graduate Research Symposium
  • 2009 — Carbon Footprint Cup — 26th Annual World Series of Birding, New Jersey Audubon


  • 2016 — Field Ornithology (ENVS 580) — TA Instructor, Drexel University
  • 2015 — Evolution & Organismal Diversity (BIO 124) — TA Lab Instructor, Drexel University
  • 2015 — Cell Biology & Genetics (BIO 122) — TA Lab Instructor, Drexel University
  • 2015 — Ornithology (ENVS 606) — Guest Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania
  • 2013 — Advanced Wildlife Biology (NTRS 684) — Guest Lecturer, Delaware State University
  • 2012 — Tropical Ecology (AGRI 548) —Guest Lecturer, Delaware State University
  • 2012 — Ornithology (NTRS 312) — Guest Lecturer, Delaware State University


Wyck at the Dawn of American Science

  • 2017 — Annual Summer Lecture of the Wyck Association; Chestnut Hill Meeting House, Philadelphia, PA

Ethology and Systematics of the genus Catharus (Aves: Turdidae)

  • 2016 — Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2016 — Drexel University, Department of Biodiversity Earth & Environmental Science (BEES), Graduate Research Seminar, Philadelphia, PA.

Thomas Jefferson: Birder in Chief

  • 2017 — Bucks County Birders; Peace Valley Nature Center, Doylestown, PA
  • 2016 — Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC), Philadelphia, PA — at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
  • 2015 — American Philosophical Society Museum (in Philosophical Hall), Philadelphia, PA

Two centuries of climate change and arrival dates of migratory songbirds in the cradle of American ornithology: Philadelphia, PA (1802–2012)

  • 2016 – Pennypack Environmental Center, Philadelphia, PA.
  • 2014 – Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center, Philadelphia, PA.

Kin structure and mating system of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens) in the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont

  • 2016 – North American Ornithological Conference (NAOC VI), Washington DC, USA.
  • 2016 – Birding Club of Delaware Valley, Broomall, PA.
  • 2016 – Evolutionary Biology Mixer — at Leidy Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2015 – Washington Crossing Audubon Society, Pennington, NJ
  • 2015 – Eastern Bird Banding Association, Elk Neck State Park, MD
  • 2014 – Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC), Philadelphia, PA — at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Origins of American Ornithology- The View from Wyck

Multiple male feeders at nests of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens)

  • 2012 – North American Ornithological Conference (NAOC V), Vancouver, B.C., Canada. *Poster Presentation*
  • 2012 – Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC), Philadelphia, PA — at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
  • 2012 – Graduate Research Symposium, Delaware State University. *Best Oral Presentation*
  • 2012 – Sussex Bird Club, Lewes, DE

Interhemispheric migratory movements of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens) revealed by light-level geolocator technology

  • 2012 – Q.E.D. Natural Science Symposium, Delaware State Univ., Dover, DE

The evolution of altruism: a personal journey

  • 2011 – Northeast Treatment-free Beekeeping Conference, Leominster, MA


  • Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (member since 2014)
  • American Ornithological Society (member since 2017)
  • Philadelphia Botanical Club (Programs committee, 2017–present)
  • Wilson Ornithological Society (member since 2011)
  • Delmarva Ornithological Society (member 2011–2013)
  • Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (inducted 2001)


  • Editor of Cassinia, journal of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (2016–present).
  • Assistant Editor of Cassinia Vols. 74–75 (2015)
  • Reviewer for Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Ornitología Neotropical, Biodiversity Data Journal


Shaver’s Creek Raptor Center—Petersburg, Pennsylvania, August 2003 – December 2003. Provided primary care to 15 diurnal and nocturnal raptor species, 4 snake species, and 8 turtle species. Medicated ill birds. Fed resident animals daily. Cleaned and maintained enclosures. Handled and jessed birds for public education programs.

Macaw Landing Foundation—Portland, Oregon, August 2004 – December 2004. Assisted with care of over 90 captive macaws, representing >10 species. Cleaned and maintained enclosures. Assisted in medication of ill birds.


  • 2013 – Halley/McKeever/Palko — nominated for Best Folk/Americana Artist and Best Collaboration at the Homey Awards (93.7 WSTW); Wilmington, DE.
  • 2012 – “Let There Be Snow” (Halley/McKeever) nominated for Best Collaboration at the Homey Awards (93.7 WSTW); Wilmington, DE.
  • 2012 – Halley & McKeever, Delmarva Folk Hero Contest finalists; Delaware Friends of Folk.
  • 2008 – Live solo performance on the Folk Show w/ Gene Shay (88.5 WXPN Philadelphia)
  • 2006 – Solo piano performance at the Dji Sam Soe Jazz Festival, Sukabumi, Indonesia.
  • 2004 – Moab Arts Festival, Moab, UT.


  • Dave Holland Big Band
  • Zakir Hussain
  • Niladri Kumar
  • Miguel Zenón
  • Ned Rothenberg
  • Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra
  • Amir ElSaffar
  • Lenny Seidman
  • Adam Rudolph


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