Full annual cycle conservation
Migratory populations experience pressures at multiple stages of the annual cycle, yet we know little about most avian species outside of the breeding season. Emerging technologies allow us to track individual birds year-round to understand the conditions they experience across their annual cycle. When individuals from multiple populations are tracked, we can begin to understand the conditions that contribute to differential population trends. I am leading a large collaborative initiative to describe the migratory network for Common Nighthawks, and assess potential hypotheses for their decline. The project is a collaboration with the Migratory Connectivitiy Project and is supervised by Peter Marra at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Steven Van Wilgenburg at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Erin Bayne at the University of Alberta.
Common Nighthawk ecology & conservation
My PhD research focuses on the ecology and conservation of the Common Nighthawk across its range, particularly in the boreal forest where the species is poorly understood. Common Nighthawk populations have declined precipitously in recent years, along with other aerial insectivorous birds. I work with a network of collaborators across North America to study how variation in the habitat of this wide ranging species contributes to plasticity in their ecology. My Common Nighthawk research is supervised by Erin Bayne and Mark Brigham, and is a collaboration with the Boreal Avian Modelling Project.
Ecological applications of bioacoustic technology
I use and develop bioacoustic tools as non-invasive survey methods for applied ecologists. Bioacoustic technology is increasingly used to survey for acoustic species like birds; however, current methods have only begun to uncover the depth of information available in audio recordings. I use automated computer processing techniques to extract information on species, individual identity, distance, and behaviour. That information can then be used for a wide range of conservation and management ecology applications. I use the Common Nighthawk as a bioacoustic model species because it has a simple, frequent, and consistent call, and it’s nocturnal behaviour precludes excessive sound masking from other acoustic species. My bioacoustic research is supervised by Erin Bayne and in collaboration with the Bioacoustic Unit.
The Common Nighthawk is a member of the nightjar family, which are ancient lineage of cryptic, nocturnal birds that eat flying insects. Nightjars are poorly understood, in part due to their night time habits which preclude them from detection during dawn bird surveys. As part of the non-profit organization WildResearch, I developed and manage a semi-national citizen science program that surveys for nightjars in Canada so that we can better understand their ecology and population trends. The program is complementary to the Breeding Bird Survey to increase the data and outreach value of both programs. To date, over 500 volunteers have completed almost 8,000 surveys and the data is freely available on NatureCounts.
MSc Research: Edge effects on grassland songbirds
The objective of my M.Sc. thesis was to investigate potential mechanisms of grassland songbird decline in the south Okanagan of British Columbia. I studied the impacts of fragmentation by agriculture on grassland songbirds in the sagebrush shrubsteppe habitat at multiple scales. At a reproductive scale, I examined potential causes for higher nest predation rates in habitat adjacent orchards. At a community scale, I investigated potential local and landscape mechanisms for an agricultural edge effect on songbird community composition. My M.Sc. work was conducted at the Centre for Wildlife Ecology and was co-supervised by with David Green at Simon Fraser University and Nancy Mahony at Environment and Climate Change Canada.
BSc Research: Urban ecology of Pacific Great Blue Herons
My undergraduate thesis used a long-term colony survey data set to study the nesting ecology of the Pacific Great Blue Heron in south coastal British Columbia. I studied nesting habitat availability and colony location choice in an anthropogenic landscape. The project was supervised by Neville Winchester at the University of Victoria and Ross Venessland at Parks Canada, and was a collaboration with The Heron Working Group.