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Westchester Honors White Plains Intel Finalist

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- At just 17, Benjamin Van Doren, of White Plains, has spurred the county to name a day in his honor after impressing scientists across the country with his research on bird's migration patterns.

Ned McCormack, a spokesman for County Executive Robert Astorino's Office, presented Doren with a proclamation declaring Feb. 13 "Benjamin Van Doren Day" at the White Plains Board of Education meeting Monday.

"I'm here to tell you that the entire county is proud of you," McCormack said of Van Doren being selected to compete for $100,000 alongside 39 other finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search.

Van Doren opened his presentation on his research project called “Meteorological, Topographical and Behavioral Correlates of Diurnal Autumn Morning Flight Migration in the Northeastern United States” by describing why he found birds' morning flight direction intriguing.

"Morning flight, which takes place in the first two hours of the day, has been documented in the near arctic as well as the polar arctic. What makes it interesting, at least for us here in the north-eastern United States, is that birds often orient in a seasonally unexpected direction. Towards the north-west, for example, when their destination is lying to the south," said Van Doren.

He crafted a null hypothesis that suggested conditions at night, such as wind speed and direction, would not be related morning flight patterns the next day. Van Doren, who will attend Cornell University next fall, then teamed up with expert, volunteer observers to track the flight of more than 45,000 birds on 84 mornings between August and November 2010.

After analyzing data from seven locations in the north-east, Van Doren rejected his hypothesis, noting that "morning flight and the conditions and the behaviors before it are inextricably linked."

"A significant relationship between wind direction and morning flight direction suggests that morning flight migrants may be compensating for wind drift that occurred at night by orienting at dawn towards the direction from which the wind had come," said Van Doren. "This may be used when evaluating the risk for a collision with man-made structures, such as wind turbines, communication towers, and skyscrapers, but more importantly, knowing the migratory patterns is of the upmost importance given recent population declines across many species, especially considering that the migratory periods of the bid's life pose the most danger."

Van Doren, who is the the high school's first Intel finalist, will travel to Washington D.C. this March to present to his research to college presidents, professors, and major researches from across the country.

Judges will award the winner $100,000, however, all finalists will get to meet President Barack Obama and earn $7,500.

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