About

390055_4469963783528_1019259640_nI’m Christy N. Wails, a graduate student focusing on avian ecology and conservation issues. I grew up in Pennsylvania and have traveled across the globe chasing birds, wherever they may take me. Broadly, my research has focused on marine birds and colonial waterbirds; I am interested in undertaking research that has important implications for their conservation, elucidating factors affecting seabird population dynamics, and furthering our understanding of marine ecosystem recovery.

Education & Research Topics

Ph.D. Student in Biology
Northern Illinois University, 2016 – Current
Supervisor: Dr. Holly Jones
Dissertation title: Quantifying the effects of early competition on fitness and niche specialization: A natural experiment in a restored ecosystem
Synopsis: My project will identify how behavioral plasticity of closely related seabird species reduces competition and enables them to coexist as breeders at recently restored islands in New Zealand. [Proposal abstract]

Master of Science in Biology
University of New Brunswick, Saint John Campus, 2014 – 2016
Supervisor: Dr. Heather Major
Thesis: Movement, colony attendance, and social behaviour of prospecting Least and Crested Auklets
Synopsis: I explored post-natal dispersal and recruitment decisions of Least and Crested Auklets. This study is the first to document differences in adult and subadult auklet behaviour and serves as a significant step towards understanding recruitment patterns of seabirds. [More]

Bachelor of Science in Biology
Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus, 2010 – 2013
Supervisors: Drs. Jennifer Arnold and Steve Oswald
Research topics: Canadian waterbird ecology, Northern Saw-whet Owl migration
Synopses: Summer research focused on terns in the Canadian Great Lakes, fall research focused on Northern Saw-whet Owl migrating through Pennsylvania. I developed and experimentally tested a field guide for estimating ages of Common Tern nestlings, assisted in documenting the first successful fostering of waterbirds across different taxonomic families at a mixed-species colony, and analyzed a 15-year dataset on migratory owls to examine morphological features and how these features relate to ecological parameters. [More]

My complete CV is available here.

Fieldwork & Travels

While in the pursuit of birds, I’ve had the opportunity to explore new and beautiful places, some of which are outlined below. Click on the points to find out more.


Green = research field sites
Blue = Non-academic fieldwork/volunteering
Pink = presentation and conference locations
Orange = recreational birding