May 2023:

  • Our paper on Sex Determination by Wing Chord Length in Eastern White-crowned Sparrows will be out soon in the Journal of Field Ornithology. This was a really fun collaboration between Ryan and I during our time conducting totally different primary research projects at the Birds Canada Long Point Bird Observatory, one of the longest running bird banding stations in Canada. Congrats to PhD candidate Ryan Leys on his first first-authored paper!


  • I’ll be starting at Cornell University as a Rose Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lab of Ornithology in September. Can’t wait to get started studying multimodal communication – including acoustic, visual, and chemical signals – in song sparrows!


March 2023:


February 2023:


January 2023:

  • Happy to have two new undergraduate students working with me on research projects focused on i) offspring provisioning dynamics in joint-nesting birds and ii) multiplex PCR optimization for microsatellite genotyping – Welcome Ashley Grew & Xingyuan Su!

November 2022:

  • Thrilled to have 3 papers currently in revision at Molecular Ecology, Behavioural Ecology, and Ornithology – stay tuned for exciting work on i) immune genes & longevity in wild birds, ii) social microbiome in joint-nesting birds, and iii) variation in haemosporidian infection prevalence in wild birds!

October 2022:

  • Our paper, “Uropygial gland microbiota differ between free-living and captive songbirds” was recently published in Scientific Reports.

March 2022:

January 2022:

  • Our systematic review and comparative anlysis on olfactory camouflage and communication in birds is now published in Biological Reviews!

Many people don’t realize it, but all bird species can smell, and some species have an extremely sophisticated sense of smell used to find food, avoid predators, and even to communicate with each other. In this publication, we evaluated two hypotheses that may explain the function of bird body odour. We found evidence that bird odour can play a role in both camouflage, by making birds harder to detect by smell, and sexual signaling, by making birds easier to detect by potential mates and possibly even advertising with smells that reflect an individual’s quality. To complete this work, co-first author and PhD student Marc Gilles (Bielefeld University) and Dr. Leanne Grieves (McMaster University; Western University) turned the research limitations brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic into an opportunity to create a successful international research collaboration that they are proud to be a part of. Find our open access article here:

  • We completed a successful field season in Puerto Rico and safely returned to Canada. Looking forward to diving back into the lab to process my preen oil and skin swab samples, which will enable me to understand group odour signatures and microbial ontogeny in communal birds.


November 2021:

  • Our paper, “Stronger population differentiation at infection‐sensing than infection‐clearing innate immune loci in songbirds: Different selective regimes for different defenses” was published in Evolution. Excellent undergraduate research by Rachel Boyd & Melanie Denommé!


October 2021:

  • We made it to Puerto Rico to kick off our field season studying chemical ecology in cooperative breeding cuckoos! Stay tuned for more info.


  • Our Evolution paper, Stronger population differentiation at infection-sensing than infection-clearing innate immune loci in songbirds: Different selective regimes for different defenses, is now out:
  • Our Royal Society Open Science paper, Preen gland microbiota covary with major histocompatibility complex genotype in a songbird, is now out:

September 2021:

  • This week we recieved notification that three of our manuscripts have been accepted for publication! Look out for our hot new research in Evolution, Royal Society Open Science, and The International Journal of Engineering Education.
  • I was honoured to receive the Royal Society of Canada Alice Wilson Award
  • I am now an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow at McMaster University!

June 2021:

  • My new paper on population differences in songbird uropygial gland microbiota in was recently published in The Journal of Animal Ecology. If you prefer to read a general audience summary of this work, check out my blog post!
  • And that’s a wrap! Sample collection is completed for my survey on passerine chemical and microbial profiles and I’m gearing up to hit the lab all summer.


April 2021:

  • All of our Covid-19 safety protocols are in place, and I am busy preparing for my second field season at the Long Point Bird Observatory where I am surveying the chemical signatures and microbial communities of over 30 North American passerine bird species.


March 2021:

  • I am delighted to announce that I have received additional postdoctoral research funding to continue my work on avian chemical ecology! I cannot publicly announce my funding source yet, but I am very grateful to have the opportunity to stay on at McMaster University and continue doing the work I love!

November 2020:

  • Brendon Samuels and I received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Ontario Field Ornithologists for our Bank Swallow conservation efforts in London Ontario.
  • I completed a successful two months of field data collection at the Long Point Bird Observatory. Now, I will be busy in the lab processing my data; I will extract bacterial DNA from preen gland swabs for genetic sequencing and use gas chromatography to analyze the chemical composition of preen oil. This will allow me to characterize the microbial and chemical profiles of over 30 species of migratory passerine birds!


October 2020:

  • I am pleased to announce that I was awarded the John W. Arnold fellowship for most meritorious thesis in Biology at Western University!

August 2020:

  • I have a new paper out in Behaviour! This is the final paper to come out of a set of behavioural experiments I did testing the responses of song sparrows to odour cues. It’s really gratifying to know that all of the experiments I did are now standalone research articles – they’ve fledged! “No evidence that songbirds use odour cues to avoid malaria-infected conspecifics” doi: 10.1163/1568539X-bja10027
  • I was a co-winner of the Best Graduate Oral Presentation Award conferred by the Society of Canadian Ornithologists for my presentation at the 2020 North American Ornithological Conference: “Odour-based discrimination of sex and major histocompatibility complex genotype in songbirds”. The virtual conference formats have really been quite successful, and I hope we see hybrid ‘virtual/in person’ models in the future.

July 2020:

  • I was selected to compete in the Animal Behaviour Society’s Warder Clyde Allee Symposium for my PhD research presentation: “Odour-based discrimination of MHC genotype in songbirds: preferences and mechanisms”. Congratulations to the Allee winners: J. Colton Watts, Natalie S. Roberts, and Rickesh N. Patel!
  • Pleased to announce I have accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at McMaster University. I will be continuing my research on avian chemical ecology with Drs James Quinn (Biology) and Greg Slater (Geography & Earth Sciences)

May 2020:

  • Our note, “A successfully breeding, partially leucistic American Robin (Turdus migratorius)” is out now in The Canadian Field-Naturalist. Another fun Western University biology collaboration based on a cool natural history observation by Dr. Nina Zitani!

April 2020:

  • I successfully passed my doctoral dissertation defense on April 15! Defending remotely via Zoom was not the way I had imagined this milestone would be completed, but my examiners were great and my lab gave me a wonderful Zoom celebration afterwards! My PhD thesis, “Chemical Communication in Songbirds” is available here.


February 2020:

  • Our new paper, “Food stress, but not experimental exposure to mercury, affects songbird preen oil composition”, is now out in the journal Ecotoxicology! This was an awesome collaboration with five fellow researchers at Western University.

November 2019:

  • My new Animal Behaviour paper, “Songbirds show odour-based discrimination of similarity and diversity at the major histocompatibility complex”, is now available here

August 2019:


June 2019:

  • I am thrilled to announce that I have two new papers on songbird chemical communication accepted in Animal Behaviour – stay tuned!

April 2019:

  • I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as a finalist for the Let’s Talk Science National Volunteer Award for my work as a volunteer Science Writer for the CurioCity program.

February 2019:

  • I was awarded the Malcolm Ferguson Award in Life Sciences from Western University.

November 2018:

September 2018:

  • I received the Western University J. D. Detwiler Award for excellence in Biology.

July 2018:

  • I received awards from Western University and Bird Studies Canada/Society of Canadian Ornithologists for travel to present my research at the 27th International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver – thank you!

May 1 2018:

  • I was awarded the Gilles Brassard Doctoral Prize for Interdisciplinary Research at the NSERC-CRSNG Top Researchers Awards Ceremony held at Rideau Hall by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.Q., C.D. Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada. It was an honour to meet such an inspiring and accomplished woman.
  • I was further invited to give a short acceptance speech at the above event.
  • I attended a round table discussion on Research Excellence with The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, P.C., M.P. Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. We were joined by the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P. Prime Minister of Canada.
  • I was also invited to share my research with dozens of Senators, MPs, and stakeholders at the NSERC-CRSNG event: “Canada’s Brain Trust: Celebrating Excellence in Research“.
  • I don’t expect I’ll ever have quite such a remarkable day in politics ever again in my life!
  • NSERC Awards 2018 / Les prix du CRSNG 2018
    GG02-2018-0126-047 01/05/2018 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presented a series of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards during a ceremony at Rideau Hall, on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Son Excellence la très honorable Julie Payette, gouverneure générale du Canada, a remis divers prix décernés par le Conseil de recherches en sciences naturelles et en génie du Canada (CRSNG), lors d’une cérémonie à Rideau Hall, le mardi 1er mai 2018. Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG Mention de source : Cplc Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, BSGG

April 4 2018:

  • Very excited to announce I have a new paper accepted in The Auk! This is my first PhD-related research paper. <;
  • I also have a short communication from my MSc to be published online soon in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology! <;
  • Completed five behavioural experiments with song sparrows at The Advanced Facility for Avian Research! Working through scoring the last twenty of hundreds of videos before heading back into the lab to start extracting bacterial DNA from uropygial gland swabs.
  • This is my first season in 10 years without field work! I’ll be going on lots of hikes and posting bird and nature photos taken with my new camera!

February 2018:

  • Gearing up for a series of four behavioural experiments I will be running throughout the month of March! It is both nerve-wracking and exciting to be about to run experiments. I have held 36 song sparrows in captivity at Western University’s Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) since I caught them in August 2017. None of this would have been possible without the help and support of AFAR staff Francis Boon and Michela Rebuli, my bird-care volunteers Lydia Balogh, Sean Clarkson, Sarah Crawford, Nikita Frizzelle, and Delaney Schofer, and many fellow AFAR faculty & researchers – thank you all!


January 2018:

  • I passed my comprehensive exams! I have officially graduated from PhD student to PhD candidate.
  • Now that the haze has worn off, I am back into writing manuscripts and processing data – it’s good to be back!

December 2017:

  • It’s been such a busy and exciting year! I have submitted a new paper, “Chemical composition of preen oil does not signal malarial infection in songbirds: results from an experimental study” for publication and am eagerly awaiting a decision. I am also studying for my comprehensive exams coming up in January. As well, my lab group are presenting at the upcoming Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) 2018 conference in San Francisco!


May 2017:

  • My paper, “Group size, but not manipulated whole-clutch egg color, contributes to ovicide in joint-nesting Smooth-billed Anis (Crotophaga ani)” was recently accepted for publication in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
  • Humbled and extremely grateful to announce that I was offered three graduate scholarships this year: OGS QEII, NSERC Alexander Graham Bell CGS-D and the Vanier NSERC CGS!

April 2017:

  • The 2017 field season is off to an excellent and productive start! From April 3 – 14, I banded 48 Song Sparrows at the rare Charitable Research Reserve. I’ve had an excellent start to my behavioural experiment on preen oil and MHC-mediated mate choice, as well!
  • I was awarded the Fred Cooke Student award from Bird Studies Canada and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists – thank you!

March 2017:

  • Excited to be gearing up for the 2017 field season, amidst a busy schedule of GC-FID preen oil analysis & learning how to process 16S rRNA sequences in Mothur.


January 2017:

  • I passed my PhD research proposal assessment!

September 2016:

  • I was awarded the Ruth Horner Arnold Fellowship in Biology.
  • My manuscript, Group size, but not manipulated whole-clutch egg color, contributes to ovicide in a joint-nesting cuckoo, was accepted for review in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

August 2016:

  • I completed a successful first field season of PhD research. My lab and I caught 92 Song Sparrows (SOSP) at QUBS in April and May, and I caught another 63 over just two weeks in July. I opened up a new field site at the rare Charitable Research Reserve near Cambridge ON and had a fantastic first go, catching another 53 SOSP in two weeks! That’s a total of 208 blood and preen oil samples to process – looking forward to hunkering down in the lab all winter!

July 2016:

  • I was selected as the University of Western Ontario Department of Biology’s 2016 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship nominee. Looking forward to the challenge of putting together a solid application package for this top award!

April 2016:

  • I received a QEII Ontario Graduate Scholarship for 2016-2017.

January 2016:

  • I was offered the Western Science Doctoral Scholarship – a recruitment scholarship awarded annually to five students across the Faculty of Science. Western University, here I come!
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