Research

As a McCall MacBain Postdoctoral Fellow at McMaster University, I am characterizing the chemical and microbial profiles of migratory birds and testing for differences in chemical and microbial richness and diversity based on key life history traits such as migration distance and breeding habitat type.

I completed my PhD at The University of Western Ontario (Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth MacDougall-Shackleton). My research explored the role of preen oil chemical cues and preen gland microbes in songbird communication and mate choice. I tested whether song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) use chemical cues in preen oil (a proxy for body odour) to assess species, sex, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genotype and avian malaria parasite infection status of potential mates. I also investigated whether microbes living within and on the preen gland are correlated with MHC genotype and preen oil chemical composition.

To assess whether geographically distinct song sparrow populations differ in their MHC-genotypes, parasite communities, preen oil chemistry, and microbial communities, I sampled wild birds at three locations across southern Ontario, and using gas chromatography and molecular genetics tools to characterize MHC, parasite diversity, preen oil chemical composition and microbial diversity at each population.

You can access & download my dissertation here.

My MSc research at McMaster University (Supervisor: Dr. James S. Quinn) focused on acoustic and visual communication in a cooperative breeding cuckoo, the smooth-billed ani (Crotophaga ani). During three field seasons in southwestern Puerto Rico, I completed research projects onĀ  vocal repertoire, referential alarm signaling and signals of aggressive intent.

You can access & download my MSc thesis here.

My BSc research at The University of Winnipeg (Supervisor: Dr. L. Scott Forbes) explored brood parasitism, brood reduction and nest predation in red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus).