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My interests span multiple areas of ecology, and have primarily focused on avian migration and movement generally.  In the tropics, I conduct long-term research in a community of birds living on the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica with my primary field site being at Rara Avis reserve.  However, as many of the birds I study there make altitudinal migrations, I have worked along the whole La Selva - Braulio Carrillo elevational gradient. 

In the temperate zone, I have worked on the costs and benefits of migration timing Tree Swallows in upstate NY, large-scale studies of life history variation along elevational gradients, alpine birds in BC, and in the past year, my newest project focuses on what ecological factors shape Grasshopper Sparrow dispersal over multiple temporal and spatial scales. I also have plans for applied work on migrant bats in the Great Plains. Please visit my research pages to learn more about current, past, and future projects.  

I welcome inquiries from potential students, post-docs, and collaborators.

Read more about my research     

News

looking for a PhD in tropical avian ecology? Apply to K-State! 
The dust is finally settling after a hectic month and a half of traveling over the central Great Plains catching molting sparrows and then a fantastic week at the ornithology meetings at Estes Park--whooohoo! what a great conference! Thanks to all the oragnizers! #AOCOSC14

Meanwhile... back on the ranch, the fall recruiting season is ramping up. I am seeking a motivated, creative, ambitious student to tackle exciting questions in tropical ornithology at the PhD level. Please take a look at the "Join the lab" page, and see the ad on OSNA here: http://www.osnabirds.org/Jobs/PhD-opportunity-in-tropical-avian-ecology-and-cons.aspx


Student Interview Season
Spring semester is well underway. January 2014 was the busiest month of my career to date and I'm amazed I made it through without dropping any of the major balls I was juggling. We are now in the thick of interviewing propective grad students in the Division of Biology, like similar programs around the country. I feel honored to have attracted the interest of many excellent young scientists. In the context of this, Joan Strassman's recent blogs about how to choose an advisor and program reflect many of my ideas on this topic, and I wanted to re-post here. Thanks Joan!
1) How getting into grad school in cell biology or neuroscience is different from ecology or evolution
2) How to avoid choosing zombie professors for grad school
3) How to avoid choosing vampire professors for graduate school


Welcome to the lab, Emily!
With both the fall semester and the Grasshopper Sparrow molting season well underway, its time to officially welome Emily Williams to the graduate program at K-State and to my lab! Emily comes to Kansas from Florida and has an impressive academic and field work background. She has worked in the North and South America and Australia on multiple projects focused on birds, picking up a ton of valuable experience along the way. She will be putting that experience to good use as she embarks upon her Masters work. Stay tuned to hear more about her research plans.

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The QMR is here! Introducing the new "PORT": Physiological Ornithology Research Trailer
just another beautiful sunrise on the KonzaSpring and summer has consisted of spending almost every day on the Konza Prairie. I've loved seeing the sun rise over this wonderful place and seeing the constant shifts in plants blooming through the season. Hatch-year Grasshopper SparrowThe Grasshopper Sparrows have provided lots of satisfaction, frustration, and surprises. I've found astounding mobility in these birds. Patterns of abundance have changed and keep changing, with areas that were thick with territorial birds in 1 month having few the next month and vice versa. We've color-banded over 160 males all captured in single mist nets using playback. Now we're seeing some of those birds defending new territories 2-3 km from where they were initially captured. Just this past week, we started to catch hatch-year birds, told from their parents by little or no yellow on the face and wing, and a row of fine streaks across their breasts.

the QMR installed in the PORTI've also made major progress in spending money! Most significantly, I took possession of a Quantitative Magnetic Resonance machine (QMR) made by EchoMRI. This machine is just like the one I was fortunate to use as a post-doc in Chris Guglielmo's lab. Mine is just the second "mobile" unit out there (after Chris'). This machine operates on the same principle as an MRI, and measures body composition (lean mass, fat mass, and water) in live animals in a minimally invasive way. the PORT on the KonzaTo make it "mobile" (it has a 300 lb magnet...) I purchased a 'toy-hauler' trailer in which it is now installed. Robert built cabinetry around it to secure the machine while driving and to provide a fantastic work space.The PORT will be going to Arizona to scan birds during fall migration. Cool new data ahead!


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Grasshopper Sparrow work has begun!

Spring has been slow to arrive to NE Kansas. The birds are showing up, but apparently, they are about 2 weeks late. Good thing too, because I'm about 2 weeks behind! This morning, it snowed several centimeters so I gave myself some much needed extra sleep, but I have been out on the prairie by ~6:15 most mornings for the past week, surveying birds on 18 10-ha plots. I started surveying before all the plots were located, so most days, I've stayed out to establish plots. We've been marking the corners with GPS of course, but also with cute and highly visible pink sparrows spray-painted on rock cairns. So far, I've only found singing Grasshopper Sparrows on the plots with the most grass. Grazed and recently burned plots (such as in this photo) have some neat birds (Uploand Sandpipers!) but at this stage of the arrival and territory establishment processes, not many sparrows of any kind.
I've had some GREAT HELP from the undergrads working in the lab! Above in the photo, Chyna Pei (L) and Allison Bays (R) stand by one of the plot corners. Many thanks to Allie, Chyan, Ian Waters, and Sarah Demadura who have all been getting up early to come survey birds.


Bats make altitudinal migrations! 
Check out our new review paper on these poorly-studied movements

I am interested in altitudinal migrations of all critters, not just birds. Whenever I used to ask my colleagues in the bat world about what I should be reading, the answer was always the same; "Yeah, bats make those kinds of movements, but I'm not aware of any really good reference". After a few frustrating years of this, I teamed up with Liam McGuire while we were both at U. Western Ontario. Our goal: assemble and critically evaluate ALL the evidence out there for altitudinal migration of bats. The result of that gigantic endeavour was finally published online at Biological Reviews this week. This paper is your one-stop-shop for everything known about this very cool topic. And as a bonus, here is a photo of one of those charismatic little creatures: a red bat Lasiurus blossevilli that I found roosting in a Weinmannia sp. at high elevation (~3000 m) in the Talamancas of Costa Rica.


New projects, new collaborations, lots of travel!

Everyone told me to expect it... but the transition to life as an Assistant Professor cannot be anticipated. I'm crazy busy, but loving my new life. In the month of January alone, I will have been out of town for meetings four times! I attended the SICB annual meeting in San Francisco which was incredibly intellectually stimulating, and provided the opportunitiy to catch up with friends from UWO days. The second week of January, I participated in another fantastic meeting: this time a 30-person catalysis meeting at NSCent  that I helped organize. For 3 days, manakin experts and genomicists brainstormed collaborative future projects. The plans for this meeting grew out of the fact that for the first time, the full genome of a manakin has been sequenced. I'm very excited by the collaborative work that will grow out of this meeting. Last week I had the opportunity to get to know many of the natural resource professionals in the state at the Kansas Natural Resources conference in Wichita, and at the end of this week, I'm off to Tulane to give a seminar and work on a modelling project with a colleague there. Whew! Oh..., and on top of that, we bought a house and moved! I love the new reality but have to find more time to be outside.


Settling in to life on the prairie

The move to Kansas, although long and drawn out, went without hitch and I am now installed in my new office, labs, and gradually becoming a functioning member of the Division of Biology. The last weekend of September (first full weekend here), I attended the meeting of the Kansas Ornithological Society in Winfield, KS where I met many biologists and birders from around the state. Saturday was devoted to talks, but Sunday was devoted to birding. Hello genus Ammodromus! On the way back to Manhattan we stopped at the stunning Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and I fell in love with the Flint Hills.

I'm moving to Kansas! 

I'm very pleased to announce that I've accepted a position as Assistant Professor at Kansas State University.  Our move to the "Little Apple" (Manhattan, KS)  will take place late September.  I'm extremely excited about joining the strong ecology and evolution group there and making this transition to the next phase of my career.  I will continue to work in both temperate and tropical regions, and anticipate initiating new projects involving grassland bird and bat migration. I hope to accept one or two graduate students interested in pursuing research in my lab beginning the fall 2013. 

In other news, the first of my Tree Swallow papers (collaborative work with Chris Guglilemo and Dave Winkler) was accepted at Functional Ecology. Read the lay summary here.
Bison grazing on the Konza prairie during my interview trip to K-State


Tropical seed dispersal & phenology paper accepted... finally! 

When I started my Ph.D., I thought it was going to be all about the interactions between migrant frugivores and the plants whose fruits they consume and seeds they disperse. The ecological and evolutionary interactions between plants and animals continue to fascinate me, despite this topic taking a back seat to the migration questions that ultimately dominated my Ph.D. work and much of my post-doc work. Nevertheless, alongside studies of the migrations of tropical birds, I spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out how migrations and species interactions generally influence the fruiting patterns of tropical plants. This work never did make it into my Ph.D., but I did eventually write it up, and now, finally, it is in press. 

One of the more unexpected and interesting aspects of studying the fruiting phenology of tropical understory plants was the tremendous diversity of phenological patterns and fruiting strategies exhibited by closely-related species growing in the same region. We known virtually nothing about the factors leading to this variation. Temperate plant phenology is so predictable and boring in comparison with what these tropical plants do! There is much more to be done in this field. 


New paper just published in Oikos! 

Special issue on the ecology and evolution of Partial Migration

I was fortunate to be invited to present my work at a symposium on partial migration last summer in Lund, Sweden. The paper I presented there was chosen to be published in a special issue of Oikos that came out this month. In it, I test a community-level prediction of the Limited Foraging Opportunities hypothesis--that more altitudinal migrants should show up in lowland forests in years when the high elevation forests have more severe rainstorms.  The results are consistent with this idea, but one of the most interesting results for me, was actually a surprise. My analyses show that probably several species we think of as residents on the Caribbean slope are actually migrants. These are species that breed in the lowlands, but likely, their numbers during the wet season are augmented by individuals breeding at higher elevations that move downslope along with the other altitudinal migrants. Several species of flycatcher and other small-bodied species fit this category. Read the full paper here!

Lund birdingAfter the conference, I had a chance to go birding and bird banding. Here's a photo from just before I fell into the bog, narrowly escaping being the next bogman of Sweden... I was grabbed at the elbows as I sank chest-deep!