My current projects fall into two inter-related research themes:

 

Ecophysiology of change

Animals must continually cope with change if they are to survive and reproduce successfully. In addition to the predictable and unpredictable change arising from the natural world, anthropogenic stressors are exposing animals to potent, new selective pressures. My work in this research theme seeks to understand the mechanisms that help animals cope with change and how they may contribute to fitness prospects in a changing world. The spatiotemporal scope of change is broad, and the tools I use allow me to study diverse systems and species based on questions of interest. I focus on the metabolic hormone corticosterone (CORT) because it is central to physiological and behavioral responses to environmental stimuli, may mediate fitness trade-offs, and is part of a physiological axis that is highly-conserved across vertebrates. Moreover, CORT can be extracted from feathers, providing a flexible way to assess physiological responses to change in birds.

Follow the link for more information about feather CORT. …more information…

 

Feather-based biomarkers

Developing reliable biomarkers that reflect how wildlife respond to change can provide benefits to scientists, managers, and policy makers, and this is particularly important for assessing effects of anthropogenic change (e.g., climate change, pollution, habitat degradation). Feathers are ideal for this purpose because they contain stable records of substances useful in physiological (e.g., hormones), toxicological (e.g., trace elements), behavioral (e.g., pigments), and ecological (stable isotopes) contexts. My projects in this research theme investigate how combinations of feather-based biomarkers can provide a more multidimensional and holistic understanding of avian ecophysiology. Using a variety of analytical approaches, I integrate study of these biomarkers across multiple levels (population, individual, and feather). The goal of this work is to develop novel tools for ecology, management, and conservation. Much of this work utilizes feather CORT, and I have extensive experience with the analysis and interpretation of feather CORT in many contexts.

I am grateful for the support of the Alberta Conservation Association during 2016-2017. To learn more about the ACA, please visit their website by clicking here.

Follow the link for more information about feather CORT. …more information…