A project of this magnitude and complexity would not be possible without the knowledge input and involvement of a multi-disciplined team of experts. Reviving the passenger pigeon requires laboratory and computational biologists, reproductive biologists, restoration ecologists, animal care takers, zoo keepers, and people who know the land and wildlife of the passenger pigeon’s habitat. While our project has been built on the work of dozens of individuals and laboratories, this page highlights our key team of advisors and collaborators for our current and future work.

Revive & Restore

Ben Novak Revive & Restore

Ben J. Novak, Project Lead

Ben J. Novak is The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback project leader responsible for project development and bringing together the right advisors and collaborators to reach the project’s goals. Ben, a North Dakota badlands native, attended Montana State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2008. Ben is a natural historian of species driven to extinction by humans specializing in the study of Passenger Pigeons. He earned his masters degree on the ecology of the Passenger Pigeon at the University of California Santa Cruz, 2016. He is currently researching genome-editing in Domestic Rock Pigeons at the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory to begin preliminary tests for Passenger Pigeon de-extinction.

UCSC Paleogenomics Lab

Revive & Restore is partnering with University of California Santa Cruz’s state-of-the-art Paleogenomics Lab for Phase 1 In Silico work on the Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback.Dr. Beth Shapiro, co-directs the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab with Dr. Richard “Ed” Green. At the Lab, researchers are incorporating experimental and computational approaches to a wide range of evolutionary and ecological questions— mostly involving the application of genomic techniques— to better understand how species and populations such evolve through time. Many members of the lab have contributed to developing the DNA extractions, sequencing, and data processing for producing the passenger pigeon and band-tailed pigeon genomes.

Shapiro Revive & Restore

Dr. Beth Shapiro, Advisor

Dr. Beth Shapiro, whose work focuses on how populations of organisms respond to climate and habitat change over time, has isolated ancient DNA from a variety of Pleistocene and Holocene species. Her lab published the first DNA sequences of the Passenger Pigeon in 2002, and she has since become one of the premiere scientists contemplating the emerging field of de-extinction. Read More

Dr. Richard ``Ed`` Green, Advisor

Dr. Richard “Ed” Green co-directs the UCSC Paleogenomics Laboratory with Dr. Shapiro. Dr. Green’s specialty is in ancient human genomics, and he was involved with the team that published the first and subsequent drafts of the Neanderthal Genome. Ed’s lab has recently pioneered a new approach to  de novo genome assembly for the company Dovetail Genomics, making high quality genome assemblies faster to produce and affordable for non-model organisms.

Andre Soares Stewart Revive & Restore

Dr. André Elias Rodrigues Soares, UCSC Scientist

Passenger Pigeon genome research at the UCSC paleogenomics lab was lead by Dr. André Elias Rodrigues Soares, a computational and laboratory biologist with a history in molecular clock phylogenies. Dr. Soares earned his PhD at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and shortly after came to the UCSC Paleogenomics laboratory where he was tasked with deciphering the evolutionary and demographic history of the Passenger Pigeon.Read More

Paul Marini Revive & Restore

Dr. Paul Marini

Paul Marini is a retired poultry industry quantitative geneticist. He completed his B.S. and M.S. degrees at Southern Illionois University, Carbondale, and his PhD at the University of Arkansas, Fayettville. His career work focused on improving growth rate, feed conversion, and meat yield in chickens and turkeys. He also served as the general manager of Palmetto Pigeon Plant, Sumter, South Carolina, for three years developing breeding stock for international markets. He was bestowed lifetime achievement awards by both the Poultry Science Association and the National Turkey Federation. Paul now keeps pigeons for his own delight while competing in Olympic style weightlifting. Paul conducted the foundational work with Band-tailed Pigeon breeding for the project and continues to advise designs for future breeding efforts with Band-tailed Pigeons and new Passenger Pigeons.

Sal Alvarez, Project Partner

Sal Alvarez owns and manages Exotic Wings International Aviary, where he breeds and cares for dozens of species of birds including Band-tailed Pigeons. Sal is one of the only breeders in the world with extensive experience working with the species. Sal is the projects very first partner, joining the project in the summer of 2012.  He has supplied our project with tissue samples as well as breeding pairs of birds for our preliminary breeding studies and ecological research. Sal’s aviary will aid in breeding efforts for new Passenger Pigeons.

Apfelbaum in Wetland Revive & Restore

Steven I Apfelbaum, Advisor

Steven Apfelbaum is a trained plant and animal ecologist. He has studied and published on how avian and vegetation systems re-assemble after disturbances such as wildfire, wind-throw and ice storms, and after incidences of forest disease in Boreal ecosystems of North America. He has been a senior ecologist for Applied Ecological Services, Inc., since 1978 and currently serves as Chairman of the Board. With AES, Steven has lead successful large-scale ecological restoration projects throughout the Americas and Europe. Steven has written many books; his most recent being some of the first “How to” land restoration DIY books for landowners and managers. Steven joins The Great Passenger Pigeon Comeback’s panel of advisors to lend his vast expertise to preparing for and undertaking Phase 3: Restoration.

The Pigeoners

A team of experienced pigeon breeders and racers have pledged to assist and advise our passenger pigeon restoration efforts when the time comes. This expertise of this team is essential to successfully conditioning passenger pigeons for their wild migrations.

ken_easleyKen Easley, Advisor

“I have liked pigeons and doves since I was very young. They seem kind and gentle. My first was a pigeon with a broken wing I found on my way home from school.” Ken has been caring for pigeons for 45 years, since that day, and still enjoys them. He begins each day with inspection of his pigeons. Observing how quickly the youngsters grow is his favorite part of raising the birds. He has maintained a successful line of performance pigeons through careful selective breeding based on meticulous record keeping. Maintaining their health has become second nature. Ken has volunteered to coordinate and consult the “Pigeoners” when the time comes to begin flying new passenger pigeons between spring, summer, and winter aviaries.

JohnBenderJohn Bender, Pledged Collaborator

John Bender has bred and flown pigeons for over 50 years in southern Ohio, once home to many breeding colonies of passenger pigeons. John is responsible for connecting Revive & Restore with the “Pigeoners team.” He keeps Racing Homers and Birmingham Rollers. In his own words, “I was very excited to hear of the Passenger Pigeon Project. I have always known about this extinct bird. As a young man, I used to go to our public library to look at and wonder about this wild pigeon that is no longer here…I would love nothing more than to be a part of the propagation and training of these new birds.” He is the 1994 World Champion Roller Pigeon Flyer.

Stephenson_PigeonsDavid Stephenson, Pledged Collaborator

David Stephenson is a freelance photojournalist and a Lecturer at the University of Kentucky’s School of Journalism and Telecommunications. When not on assignment, David races homing pigeons with the Lexington Racing Pigeon Club of which he is President. David and his family tend to a team of homing pigeons in their urban back yard in Lexington, where their birds return from racing as far away as 500 miles. His two passions meet on a daily basis when he takes photos of his birds and posts them to his website: The Pigeon Photographer. David is “thrilled to be part of the project” and to help with any aspect of breeding, training or visual documentation of future passenger pigeon restoration efforts.

KerschnerrTim Kirschnerr, Pledged Collaborator

Tim Kirschnerr has bred and raced pigeons since 1993. He has won multiple races from Texas to New England, including taking the top 7 places at the Ohio Classic Race, a feat no other breeder has achieved since the race began in 1983. Tim currently lives in North Carolina, a place ideally suited for winter roosting of future passenger pigeons.