Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela


Read my CV

Natalia Ocampo P. ToucanI am a Colombian bird conservation biologist. My passion for birds extends across my lifestyle and research interests. I recently earned a PhD in Conservation Biology from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. I started studying and watching birds during my first semester of college (2004) and have spent the most of the last 12 years learning about birds, and working to improve their conservation in Colombia, and in other tropical biodiversity hotspots. I obtained  a Fulbright-Colciencias scholarship that allowed me to start my PhD in the US in 2011. Upon return to my country, I hope to apply the knowledge acquired in graduate school to real conservation problems in Colombia.

In this website, you can learn more about me, my research and study sites, and read my publications.

During my PhD I focused on practical conservation issues of Colombian birds, mainly those that are endemic or threatened. This took me to the Western Andes, where I spent 4 years looking at ways to improve conservation, reconnect forest fragments, and protect large numbers of species of concern. For the last year of my PhD, I expanded my horizons and worked on a global project, assessing the impact of using geospatial data in Red List assessments, and looking at how this affects species threat categories and conservation priorities.

I have participated in several bird studies and am a co-author on the “Travel guide birdwatching sites in Colombia” published by Proexport Colombia to attract birdwatchers to the country. I edited a book about conservation strategies in Colombia (“Mecanismos de conservación privada: una opción viable en Colombia”), and participated in the edition of a book about palms as a resource for the Orinoco region. I started publishing research articles in 2006 as an undergraduate and have now published 11 peer-reviewed papers. I also collaborated on a book about the contribution of private reserves to the biodiversity of the Orinoco region, and helped design games for kids to learn about birds.

IMG_8231My extensive field experience with birds has taken me to many great places. In Colombia, I have done at least 25 bird inventories for private reserves all over the country, especially in the Orinoco region. I also spent a few months working on a Nazca Booby project for researchers Dr. Anderson and Felipe Estela on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and Malpelo in Colombia. The North American Banding Council has certified me as a passerine bird bander, and since I have banded over 7000 passerine birds in Colombia, California, and North Carolina.  While helping band Sooty Terns, I also got to spend a few days in the Dry Tortugas in Florida; in this and the Nazca Booby projects I have banded several thousand seabirds. I also worked deploying Time-Depth recorders and GPSs on birds. Since 2014, I have been collaborating on a project to tag Orinoco Geese with satellite transmitters to determine their currently unknown migratory routes.

Banding blue Jay


One of my biggest passions is education. I enjoy working with children and teenagers, teaching them about birds and their conservation importance. I have designed activities for children in Chicoral (Colombia), and currently volunteer at a banding station in Raleigh for the NC  Museum of Natural Sciences.