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 2022

Posted by on Jul 26, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Spring 2022

The Karubian Lab had an active Spring 2022! We were all glad to celebrate Mardi Gras in person again! Sarah Khalil and John Jones both defended outstanding PhD theses on fairywrens, and we wish them the best as they move onto the next steps in their careers. Graduating seniors Ellie Casement and Sloan Livaccari defended their honors theses and won departmental honors for their work. And, Megan Narasimhan joined the team as the Program Manager for the Ecuador Scholars Program, and has had a tremendous impact—welcome aboard Megan! We are all ready for summer to begin and to get back into field research!

Sarah Khalil has officially flown the nest (get it?) and started her NSF postdoc at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but not before enjoying her last Mardi Gras as a New Orleans resident! As part of her postdoc, she will continue to work to understand the mechanisms of color production in red-backed fairywrens and how variation in color leads to variation in individual reproductive success, as well as expanding her work among other avian systems. Sarah also will be attending the Animal Behavior Conference in Costa Rica this July where she will present her work on sexual selection in fairywrens, and will then meet back up with some of the Karubian lab in Ecuador where she will be an instructor for the Tulane tropical field ecology course at FCAT.

John Jones also successfully defended his PhD thesis in Spring 2022. He published studies from his thesis work on white-shouldered fairywrens in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology and Hormones and Behavior, and he has a number of additional papers in review. He spent the summer in New Orleans wrapping up his thesis chapters and is now on the hunt for a post-doctoral or faculty position.

Kaushik Narasimhan had a productive spring semester. Now that he has all of his data, he is working on his second and third chapters while submitting his first chapter for publication. He also had another paper published as co-author. He earned several grants this past semester, including the Lewis and Clark Grant. He plans to be an instructor for the Ecuador field course over the summer and work hard to finish up his dissertation.

Annelise Blanchette has been keeping busy this spring moving her dissertation ahead. She is currently working on the manuscript for her first chapter and plans to submit it soon. She’s been in the lab doing RNA extractions and out in the field collecting lizards for her second chapter. She was awarded the Gaige Fund Award for her work on Anolis cognition and ran a half marathon in March where she finished with a new personal best time and placed second in her age group. Her plan is to finish all field and experimental work this summer so she can begin writing in earnest come the fall semester.

Mike Ellis spent the spring semester wrapping up his Fulbright field work, travelling throughout NW Ecuador to collect forest vegetation data. He’ll use those data to calculate above ground biomass and model the impacts of natural and anthropogenic forces on forest structure, maturity, diversity, and disturbance. He’s also happy to report that his manuscript with collaborator A. Lele on variation in avian morphology driven by elevation over short vertical and horizontal distances was published in Biotropica. He is extraordinarily excited to be returning to NOLA and plans to eat many a crawdad.

Luke Anderson wrapped up his third major field season in Ecuador, where he was radio tracking white-bearded manakins and monitoring fruit availability at lek sites. He then had a chance to explore the Amazon for a week and returned to New Orleans just in time for the Mardi Gras festivities. He spent the remainder of the semester preparing for his prospectus defense—he passed and has advanced to candidacy! He returned to South America several times this summer, assisting with manakin-related projects at the FCAT station, presenting some preliminary findings at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation conference in Cartagena, Colombia, and serving as a teaching assistant for the Tulane undergraduate field course in Ecuador.

Judith Santano has had a BIG year! She’s officially done with her first year of the PhD and is proud of how much she has grown in this short time. She spent the spring busy with the Ornithology course, developing her research plans for this summer, and getting trained up to work with hummingbirds. Some highlights of this semester were getting to see Roseate Spoonbills for the first time, teaching kids about pollination at the zoo, and experiencing her first Mardi Gras! She has been working with Nancy Newfield to learn how to band hummingbirds so that she can study them in Ecuador. This summer she’ll be down at the FCAT station studying pollination across a gradient of regeneration. She’s incredibly excited to spend 3 months in the field working on her own research and learning from all the other scientists who will also be at the station. Hopefully she returns to New Orleans a hummingbird expert!

Jordan has continued to develop the Ecuador Scholars Program with support from the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Newcomb Institute, Tulane’s Office of the President, and other partners. The program welcomed its first cohort of students in Spring and is gearing up to expand this upcoming year. He had a busy summer and is looking forward to being on sabbatical in Fall 2022!

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Fall 2021

Posted by on Nov 29, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fall 2021

The cooler weather is here and everyone in the lab has been busy! The semester got off to a great start but then Hurricane Ida came through and disrupted our flow a bit. Nevertheless, we all bounced back and are keeping busy with our classes, research, and teaching.

This semester we welcomed some new undergraduates to the lab including: Mary Elizabeth Barrow, Jack Cohn, Olivia Davison, Sloan Livaccari, and Maggie Millar. We also welcomed Master students Galen Dolkas, Chengkai (Kai) Guo, Vishal Narayan, and Thalia Williamson! Tanner Mazanec, Kat Perkins, and Katie Rompf are all making progress on their Master’s. And last but certainly not least, Judith Santano has joined us as a PhD student from California, with support from a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship she was awarded!

The PhD students have all had a lot on their plates but are doing a great job with work-life balance.

Sarah Khalil successfully defended her PhD thesis on red-backed fairywren coloration and is getting ready to begin her NSF-funded postdoc at Cornell. She also presented her work on the genomics of color variation in fairywrens at two conferences this summer – the American Ornithological Society, and the annual Evolution conference, where she won a W. D. Hamilton Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Presentation! She also spent two weeks in Ecuador TAing the tropical field ecology course with Jordan, where she taught and lead a group of undergraduate students through a project on catching birds. She will return in summer 2022 as an instructor of record on the course.

John Jones’ dissertation is starting to take form as he has been busy writing and teaching since our last update. His first chapter is currently in press with Ecology and Evolution and his second chapter is in review in Behavioral Ecology. He plans on submitting his third chapter soon to Animal Behaviour; fingers crossed! John also learned a new (to him) technique to analyze color variation over the summer that models color perception from their eyes; this approach takes center-stage of his fourth and final chapter, exploring if and how female aggression is correlated with male plumage coloration in both white-shouldered and red-backed fairywrens. Finally, John is applying for a few postdoctoral fellowships as he considers his next steps – insert shameless plug to reach out to him if you’re a PI looking to hire!

Kaushik Narasimhan had a busy summer, and his fall is shaping up to be very busy as well. He spent the summer getting ready for a long field season in Ecuador and, after some delays due to weather, finally made it. He plans to harvest his beloved seeds (now seedlings) from his seedling survival experiment – all 2,000 of them! – and gather the last bit of data for his 3rd chapter. He is also spearheading the implementation of new project, funded by an NSF RAPID grant awarded to Tulane professor Dr. Sunshine Van Bael , that aims to test seed survival in a similar way to his 3rd chapter, but with many more tree species found in Ecuador. He is also assisting in a forest restoration projected and working on a number of manuscripts!

Annelise Blanchette spent her summer collecting brown anoles for use in cognition and locomotor performance trials. She also learned how to perform a brain dissection and collected anoles to dissect for transcriptome analysis. In the midst of field and lab work she also trained for and ran a half marathon (her 6th – she kicked butt). She wrapped up most of her work for this season and is currently piloting some new cognition methods to try out in the spring and working on data analysis in close collaboration with co-advisor Dr. Alex Gunderson.

Mike Ellis defended his prospectus in the spring and traveled around the country while working remotely (and birding). In July, he began his Fulbright fellowship in Ecuador, and he has been working in the field ever since. He is also working on two manuscripts, one of which is in review and the other is soon to be submitted.

Luke Anderson spent the summer doing fieldwork in Ecuador. Along with a team of Tulane students, he was tracking white-bearded manakin movement, gathering genetic samples, mapping fruit distributions, and monitoring male display activity. He also served as a teaching assistant for the undergraduate field course at FCAT. He will be returning to Ecuador this semester and is looking forward to gathering more data, improving his Spanish, and playing Ecua-voley with the FCATeros.

Judith Santano joined the lab as a new Ph.D student. Judith graduated from Stanford University and is excited to continue exploring and developing her passions for community ecology, community-based conservation, and environmental education in the Karubian lab! She spent the summer getting a jump start to her Ph.D. by joining Luke Anderson for his field season at FCAT in Ecuador studying how the distribution of food resources impact the mating behavior of White-bearded Manakins. This semester she’s focusing on learning as much as she can about ecology and making New Orleans her new home.

Jordan was promoted to full Professor at Tulane University and received a Fulbright Fellowship for research and training in Ecuador. He also received grants from NSF for work on the factors that determine abundances of South American palm trees with Dr. Paul Fine, Dr. Miles Silman, and Dr. Luke Browne, and for work on how soil microbial communities mediate seedling survival with Dr. Sunshine Van Bael. He enjoyed traveling to Ecuador over the summer with family, friends and colleagues to teach the field biology course at the FCAT station.

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