Thursday, July 2, 2009

Featured Student or Postdoc: Bethany Thurber

Bethany is new to Ontario, hailing from southwestern Nova Scotia. She completed an undergraduate Honour’s degree at Acadia University where she studied the breeding biology of sundews and roses. To gain experience with a different study system, she moved to the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, to pursue a graduate degree in avian ecology and evolution with professors Chris Guglilemo and Phil Taylor. Bethany’s M.Sc. research focuses on bird migration through the Great Lakes region. She is studying the migratory flight responses of migrating birds as well as their behavioural ecology at an important stopover site (the rest and refuelling portion of migration) at Long Point, Lake Erie.

Bethany is tracking birds using modified marine radar and radio-telemetry to answer several research questions within the general theme of stopover behaviour and ecology. Her main interests include the specific effects of weather and body condition on the timing of arrival to and departure from stopover sites, and how the topographical features of a landscape affect flight altitude, heading, and speed.

This work is important, because the Great Lakes present a major geographic barrier to migrating birds, and flight responses to weather conditions paired with topographical shifts provide important clues to the migratory success of individual birds.