"Welcome!"

Welcome! Our lab explores how the environment that organisms experience shapes their ecological, behavioral, evolutionary, and conservation trajectories. We focus our research on animal and plant and plant systems around the world, with active studies on plant-animal interactions, mating systems, demography and survival, signal evolution, movement and dispersal, and endangered species. Our lab takes a socially aware approach that combines community-engaged participatory research with capacity building, training, and education in the biodiversity hotspots where we work.

Spring 2020

Posted by on May 7, 2020 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Spring 2020

Spring has sprung. The flowers are blooming, the trees are budding new leaves and the Karubian lab has been adapting to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. We have been meeting virtually for the past several weeks and doing our best to keep motivated as we revise our plans to adjust to a summer without field research. The beautiful weather has been a huge help as we maintain social distancing through this challenging time, and the migratory birds and centuries-old oaks serve as much-needed reminders that ‘this too shall pass’.

First things first – congratulations to Dr. Zoe Diaz-Martin for successfully defending her PhD dissertation, flawlessly and virtually.

Our plus one master’s students have done amazing this year as well while finishing their programs. Congratulations to Caitlin McCormick and Wendy Deng!

We also congratulate Margaux Armfield and Sarah Lueder on successfully defending their Honors Theses! Congratulations to all our graduating seniors – Margaux, Sarah L, and Morgan Furlong.

We also welcomed Sophomore Ellie Casement and Juniors Melanie Smith and Zac Ripich to the lab this semester! Ellie, Melanie, Zac and Erin Sheehy all received grants to conduct research this summer in Ecuador

Although this is by far the strangest semester we have had, the PhD students are still busy and looking to the future.

Zoe Diaz-Martin successfully passed her doctoral dissertation defense, scooping up departmental honors for best dissertation this year as well as the ‘Tulane 34’ award, among the most prestigious and selective honors the university bestows! She accepted a three-year post-doctoral research position at the Chicago Botanic Garden in the Plant Science and Conservation department. She will be working on two projects – one is an NSF funded project that investigates the drivers of diversification in the primrose family. The other aims to develop a tool for botanic gardens that is akin to ‘studbooks’ in zoos, which allows for the effective genetic management of highly endangered plant species that primarily exist in garden collections.

John Jones has completed his Endeavour Fellowship and returned from his extended field season in Papua New Guinea and Australia and has finally gotten used to being home here in New Orleans. In preparation for his final field season, he has been awarded grants from our department, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, and the Animal Behavior Society. In the meantime, John is writing up the results from his prior field seasons, catching birds, and frequently washing his hands.

Sarah Khalil completed a year of work at Cornell University in the lab of her committee member, Dr. Irby Lovette. In January, she presented her work on how testosterone regulates gene expression to produce red plumage in red-backed fairywrens at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) conference in Austin, Texas, where she was a finalist for a best student presentation award. She also received grants from Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology and the Lewis & Clark Fund and is currently analyzing her whole-genome resequencing data and writing up her other chapters.

Kaushik Narasimhan has had a busy semester as he prepares to defend his prospectus. Additionally, he is finishing up a manuscript documenting a range extension of the Long-tailed weasel, Mustela Frenata, based on camera footage found from his first chapter, on fruit removal at palm trees in relation to surrounding fruit neighborhood. He has also conducted niche modeling for the endangered banded ground-cuckoo. Future plans are in flux as his field season in Ecuador is impacted by Covid-19, but Kaushik is hoping for the best!

Annelise Blanchette has been on a research assistantship with funds from the Morris Animal Foundation this spring, preparing for her first full field season. She designed a memory-based study on the mockingbirds, thought about ways to monitor their nesting success, and contributed to a grant proposal with undergraduate Caroline Camus and Dr. Myra Finkelstein (UC Santa Cruz) to the Morris Animal Foundation. During Mardi Gras, Annelise and Jordan worked with local printmaker Pippin Frisbie-Calder and Cammie Hill-Prewitt from Tulane’s Bywater Institute and Studio in the Woods to collect beads for recycling and spread awareness of soil-lead contamination and the mockingbird project. Currently, Annelise is trapping and banding as many adult mockingbirds around campus as possible with the hope of completing her behavioral experiment and nest success monitoring next year. She’s perfecting her methods and will try to watch the wildlife and cats on campus through camera traps to take advantage of these quiet times (and she’s already garnered a bit of a tan).

Mike Ellis has been hard at work this semester applying for grants and fellowships between outings for the Ornithology lab he TA’s. He’s also been honing his research on eco-evolutionary drivers creating and maintaining tropical diversity gradients. Mike has received a Fulbright Fellowship that will allow an extended field season in northwestern Ecuador in 2021.

Luke Anderson submitted a manuscript on signal jamming behavior in brown-headed cowbirds based on his master’s thesis research. He’s also been taking classes and preparing for his upcoming field season. Whenever travel is up and running again, he plans to travel to Ecuador and conduct a nest monitoring study on green manakins. He was recently awarded a Lewis & Clark Exploration Fund grant to support this work. During the quarantine, he is working on analyzing prior data and writing up a paper about long-wattled umbrellabird foraging behavior.

Lastly, but definitely not least, our advisor is promoting mindfulness during this hectic time and always remembers to check in with us, though he is incredibly busy himself.

Jordan Karubian has been kept on his toes the past several weeks trying to balance home schooling with being a professor… let’s just say there is never a dull moment! There have been some positive developments on the work front. With collaborators Dr. Scott Walter (Texas State, San Marcos) and Dr. Barbara Piperata (Ohio State), he received a NSF ‘IRES’ grant which will allow research and training opportunities for undergraduate students in Ecuador. He has also had publication come out on brown pelican foraging ecology, with lab alum Dr. Brock Geary. Jordan is very proud of his graduating students and of continuing lab members for the character they have shown during this challenging time.

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Fall 2019

Posted by on Sep 26, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fall 2019

Welcome back to school everyone! This semester we welcomed Ph.D. student Luke Anderson. Luke is joining us from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied brown-headed cowbird courtship under the advisement of Dr. Marc Schmidt. He will now focus his research on manakins in the family Pipridae in Ecuador.

Kyu Min Hu and Caitlin McCormick, who both completed their undergraduate studies Tulane last year, have returned to further their education as M.S. students in our lab. We also welcomed Zhiyu (Wendy) Deng as M.S. students in the lab. We also have an outstanding group of undergraduate students working with us. Sarah Leuder completed field work on diversity of palm trees in Ecuador over the summer and will be writing up her honors thesis on that work this year. Margaux Armfield returned from a semester abroad in Scotland and will be conducting her honors thesis on network dynamics of pollination biology. Two juniors, Caroline Camus and Erin Sheehy, have joined the lab and are currently developing their honors thesis projects on lead contamination in pets and lek-breeding manakins, respectively. To round things out, Daleth DelSalto is visiting the lab from Guatemala and Sarah Uher is working as a lab technician.

Former PhD students in the lab have also been active – Jenny Hazlehurst is starting as a faculty member at California State University, East Bay this fall, while Luke Browne has begun a post-doctoral fellowship with Liza Comita at the Yale School of Forestry!

The returning Ph.D. students have been keeping busy since last spring.

Zoe Diaz-Martin has entered her 6th and final year and had a busy summer. She presented her work at the Evolution Conference, co-instructed two courses, and advanced her dissertation research. She spent time in Ecuador at the awesome new FCAT reserve and at the Refugio del Gavilán to help develop long lasting conservation solutions in northwestern Ecuador. This semester she will focus on writing and begin applying to post-doctoral research positions.

John Jones is still in the field! He first spent 2 months in Papua New Guinea working with white-shouldered fairywrens; now and is now working with the red-backed fairywren in Australia under a fellowship awarded from the Australian Government. He is conducting a series of field-based experiments focused on both behavioral ecology and endocrinology and will be home in December to analyze the data – mostly watch video recordings.

Sarah Khalil has spent the last few months working with her committee member, Dr. Irby Lovette, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. During that time, she performed ddRAD sequencing to look at the relatedness of New Orleans mockingbirds, in collaboration with Ph.D. student Annelise Blanchette and undergrad Lauren Hitt. She has also been working on a whole-genome resequencing project investigating the genetic basis of red coloration in hybrid fairywrens and presented some of this new work at the American Ornithological Society this June in Anchorage, Alaska, as an invited speaker at a symposium on avian hybrid zones. She will continue working at the Cornell Lab for the fall semester and be back in New Orleans for Spring semester.

Kaushik Narasimhan had a long and productive summer. Along with Sarah Leuder and Lewis Greenstein, he helped create the protocol and set up kilometer-long transects around the FCAT reserve. He also participated in the Ecuador field course, in which he led the student camera trapping project. The cameras revealed a healthy reserve, producing many stunning videos Kaushik also spent much of the summer working in the lab, extracting DNA from leaf tissue of Oenocarpus bataua adults to gain insights into how differences in R genes (AKA Resistance genes) between individuals of the same species contributes to survival advantages. This semester Kaushik is working hard on his prospectus, aiming to defend by the spring!

Annelise Blanchette spent her summer conducting field work on impacts of lead exposure on wildlife in New Orleans. She got plenty of practice finding nests and banding mockingbird nestlings and worked alongside Akhila Gopal to pilot a behavioral study on mockingbird adults. She also completed a pilot study on lead exposure and aggressive behavior on a common lizard Anolis sagrei and and collected plant samples from around Uptown for lead analysis. Annelise will spend her fall semester framing out her dissertation and applying for grants.

Mike Ellis spent three months in Ecuador this summer developing research projects and working with local conservation non-profits. He’s still stoked about his trip to partner reserve Tesoro Escondido where he was lucky enough to see a young Harpy Eagle at its nest. This fall, Mike will be working with Kyu Min Huh and Rachel Cook to publish their work on wildlife diversity patterns in forest fragments. He’ll also be conducting research on regional bird diversity, writing grants, and collaborating with Ecuadorian partners on social outreach and primate conservation programs.

Jordan Karubian has been putting lots of time and energy into exciting conservation, research, and education work in Ecuador with our partners at FCAT. Earlier this year we purchased 164 ha. (320 acres) of rainforest habitat and built a station with capacity for 45 visitors. In August we inaugurated the station by bringing a group of 15 Tulane undergraduates to the site for a two-week immersive course in Tropical Field Biology and Conservation. (EBIO. 3780). It was a success; to quote one student: “I will be going back with a better vision of what I want to do with my life, what I feel is important to prioritize, and a better understanding of field techniques in tropical ecology and conservation. From the perspective of a student, I would say that the program is fantastically successful. I loved every muddy bit of it!” Jordan also received funding from Disney Conservation Fund, our longtime supporters of work in Ecuador, and saw two publications (Enbody et al. 2019, Javůrková et al. 2019) come out with former PhD student Erik Enbody on white shouldered fairy-wrens. Jordan was also named a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society!

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