Employee Spotlight: Jennifer McKay Rejoins the Bird Banding Laboratory

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Biologist with avian database skills returns to the lab.

I female biologist uses special pliers to apply a metal band to a blue jays leg.

Biologist Jennifer McKay bands a blue jay at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center's fall migration banding station in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: Jonathan Fiely)

Jennifer McKay grew up in a small town, York, Maine. She always loved the sciences and wanted to edit documentary films for a living. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications with a minor in biology from Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 2000. McKay spent some time in radio and television production before realizing biology was her passion.

McKay taught both life and physical sciences for eight years at a combination of middle school and high school levels. On the side, McKay worked as a naturalist tour guide for a few summers at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, N.H., where she introduced visitors to tidal ecology. In addition to her teaching and naturalist work, McKay also spent this time working on her thesis researching blood mercury levels in song and Nelson’s sparrows in Acadia National Park. McKay earned her Master of Science degree in biology from the University of Southern Maine in 2010.

McKay then spent six months in Louisiana working for the Biodiversity Research Institute on field work concerning the survivorship of birds effected by oil spills. She continued her work with this company for several years, serving in various capacities including data manager, communication and outreach, and field biologist. 

McKay was hired at the lab in 2013 to do quality assessment and control of more than 80 years of Laysan and black-footed albatross data banded and encountered in the Pacific Hawaiian Islands. Additionally, she processed encounter and banding records for the lab while focusing on errors involving geospatial tagging. She left the lab in 2018, but has continued to work on quality assessment and control for albatross data during the last two years.

McKay started work at the lab again in March 2020 and continues her work on data quality control on encounter data as well as project specific albatross data. McKay currently lives in Ithaca, N.Y., with her husband and two children. 


McKay, J.L. and Maher, C.R. Effects of mercury on male son in Nelson's Sparrows (Ammodramus nelsoni). 2012. Ecotoxicology 21 (8): 2391-2397