Research

Education

PhD candidate (Biology), Northern Illinois University, 2016 – Current (Supervisor: Dr. Holly Jones)
MSc (Biology), University of New Brunswick, 2016 (Supervisor: Dr. Heather Major)
BS (Biology), Pennsylvania State University, 2013 (Supervisors: Drs. Jennifer Arnold and Steve Oswald)

Research

Birds are key components of communities around the planet. My research considers birds in two roles – as ecosystem engineers and indicators of environmental health – while answering basic ecological questions that have conservation implications. For copies of papers, visit my ResearchGate and GoogleScholar profiles or email me. Additional components of my work can be found at my GitHub (under construction).

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Birds as Ecosystem Engineers

As ‘ecosystem engineers’, seabirds create and enhance island habitats for other species on land at islands and in surrounding inter-tidal areas through nutrient-rich guano deposition and bioturbation of the soil. I study basic dispersal and recruitment decisions by seabirds in a restoration context that will facilitate the recovery of island ecosystem functioning. Current and past projects include:

    • Competition during recolonization
      I investigate how behavioral plasticity of closely related procellariiform seabird species reduces competition for limited resources and enables them to coexist as breeders at islands recently cleared of mammalian predators in New Zealand.
    • Prospecting seabird behavior
      I explored post-natal dispersal and recruitment decisions of Least and Crested Auklets in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. 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.

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Birds as Environmental Indicators

As ‘environmental indicators’, the abundance and physiological condition of birds can reveal information on demographic changes, shifts in forage quality, and responses to threats. Current and past projects include:

    • Migration and population changes
      I’ve partnered with the Sand Bluff Bird Observatory to understand changes in migratory populations in northern Illinois.
    • Predicting demographic consequences
      Using demographic data, I simulate population changes of seabirds that consume plastics, reproductive consequences stemming from changing environmental conditions, and examine bird-window collision mortality.
    • Morphometrics and plumage as a cue
      Through the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, my coauthors and I analyzed a 15-year dataset on migratory owls, revealing environmental forcing (via cyclic prey availability) of plumage coloration and body condition. Additionally, I developed and experimentally tested a field guide for estimating ages of Common Tern nestlings that is used to improve productivity estimates.
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