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Spring 2012
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Senior Portraits

Arjun Potter

Text: Hannah Stamler ’12 | Photo: Kent Loeffler

Arjun Potter

Arjun Potter has been interested in birds for as long as he can remember. At 5 years old, he was the youngest member of his hometown bird club in New Haven, Conn.

Now 22, not much has changed. He remains as excited about birds as he was as a child, and he has devoted his senior honors thesis to the White-naped Tit—a bird local to India, his mother’s native country.

Arjun came across the rare species in high school while working in a conservation biology lab in India. The bird is only found in a few locations, and almost nothing is known about it. Arjun hopes to change that.

Working closely with André Dhont, The Morgens Professor of Ornithology and a world expert on tits, he drafted a research proposal and was awarded a grant through the Dextra Undergraduate Research Endowment Fund, supported by CALS, which allowed him to spend a summer in western India collecting data about the tit.

He made observations about its habitat and nesting as well as roosting behaviors and territory defense, all of which will be incorporated into his thesis. He is also cataloging some of the White-naped Tit vocalizations he captured for inclusion in the Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library, the largest scientific archive of biodiversity recordings.

The natural resources student is hoping his research will ultimately contribute to the conservation of the rare bird, which is threatened with extinction.

With its renowned Lab of Ornithology, Cornell was a natural choice for Arjun, who transferred as a sophomore. His involvement with the Lab started immediately, with work at Project Feederwatch, a program in which people across the country submit data on their home bird feeders.

When not in the Lab, Arjun enjoys learning Indonesian and Hindi and spending time at Prospect of Whitby, his coeducational cooperative.

This summer, he will be researching endangered wild cattle on the island of Java while on a Fulbright Scholarship. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology.