Grasshopper Sparrow research got a shot in the arm in recent weeks.
Today, I recieved the happy news that our work will recieve funding
from the Kansas NSF EPSCoR program! Additionally, I receieved internal
funding for isotope analyses of all the sparrow feathers. Yay for some
good news at this stressful time of year! Hang in there everyone... and
enjoy some relaxation over winter break.
Some funding joy!
Boyle lab almost doubled in size this fall! I am thrilled to welcome 2
new PhD students to the lab. Carly Aulicky comes to K-State with an
undergrad from Rutgers and a MS from the University of Glasgow. Elsie
Shogren comes to us with an undergrad from Cornell and with a whole
bunch of field adventures in between. Both Carly and Elsie were able to
jump-start their PhD programs by participating in OTS's graduate course
in Tropical Ecology this summer where they collectively became known as
"Bat Falcon" (who knows...?). Watch this space for more details on
their research plans as they develop. We also said goodbye to former
Boyle lab undergrad and tech, Amie Sommers, who started a MS this
fall at Texas Tech under the mentorship of my friend and colleague Liam McGuire. Good luck Amie, and welcome Bat Falcon!
Welcome "BAT FALCON"!
Boyle lab went back to school this month! We spent a highly
enjoyable (and somewhat hectic!) evening over at Lee Elementary School
as part of a K-State sponsored "STEM fun nite". Three groups of ~17
students and their parents visited our room where students learned
about how birds fly using some duck wings, balances,
and fans. How much lift? How does that amount change at different
wing angles? What about bigger or smaller wings? Our junior scientists
also got to look some amazingly beautiful bird specimens and look how
cool owl feathers are under the microscope. We had fun! I think the
kids did too.
STEM fun nite!
All photos by Mark Herse.
thrilled to welcome Mark Herse to the Master's program at K-State! He
is already well into developing his proposal and planning his first
field season which will involve trucking around the beautiful tallgrass
prairies of Eastern Kansas and seeking the elucive Henslow's Sparrow.
Where are they? and Why are they so temporally unpredictable? Check out
his announcement for an awesome field job this summer, and also his slick website featuring his excellent photographic skills.
the lab is growing! Welcome Mark
the lab has been a hive of activity since January. Recent K-State
graduate, Amie Sommers, has been ploughing through a backlog of assays
and sample prep from last summer. Amie just got the official word that
she has been accepted to work with Liam McGuire
on bat physiological ecology at Texas Tech for her Masters' research.
Congratulations Amie! Along with Amie, undergrads Dylan Smith has been
helping sort sweep samples, Abi Doty working on a literature
project, Breyana Ramsay analyzing nest iButton data, and Justin
Leon taking on the compilation effort for return rates of Grasshopper
Sparrows over their whole range. Go lab!
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!
The photo to the right was taken out the front door of my cabin--elk
bugled their way through the campus every day.
Thanks to all the oragnizers! #AOCOSC14
looking for a PhD in tropical avian ecology? Apply to K-State!
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.
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
balls I was juggling. We are now in the thick of interviewing
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!
getting into grad school in cell biology or neuroscience is different
from ecology or evolution
How to avoid choosing zombie professors for grad school
to avoid choosing vampire professors for graduate school
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.
Welcome to the lab,
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
through the season. The Grasshopper Sparrows
have provided lots of
satisfaction, frustration, and surprises. I've
found astounding mobility in these birds. Patterns of
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.
I'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. To make it "mobile" (it has
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
Arizona to scan birds during fall migration. Cool new data ahead!
The QMR is here!
Introducing the new "PORT":
Physiological Ornithology Research Trailer
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
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.
Grasshopper Sparrow work has begun!
am interested in altitudinal migrations of all critters, not
just birds. Whenever I used to ask my colleagues in the bat
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
I found roosting in a Weinmannia sp. at high elevation
(~3000 m) in the Talamancas of Costa Rica.
Check out our new review paper on these poorly-studied
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
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
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
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
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
Tropical seed dispersal & phenology paper
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
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
of Oikos that came out this month. In it, I
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
the most interesting results for me, was actually a
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
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