Posts by Lab Site Editor

Fall 2020

Posted by on Nov 30, 2020 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The fall semester welcomed students back to campus to teach and learn virtually and in-person!

We welcomed M.S. students Peyton Fralick, Tanner Mazanec, and Ace Spitzer. Undergraduate student Cecilia Hammond has joined the lab, Sarah Uher has moved from lab tech to researcher, and students Ellie Casement, Caroline Camus, Melanie Smith and Erin Sheehy are all making great progress on their honors theses.

As we navigated a whirlwind of a spring semester and summer, the returning PhD students have been productive.

John Jones had a busy summer watching hours upon hours of bird videos and learning how to analyze birdsongs to compare acoustic complexity between two populations of white-shouldered fairywrens. The song results are complete and are now added to the first chapter of his dissertation that he hopes to submit by the end of the year. This fall has been spent juggling teaching, writing this manuscript, writing grants, and washing his hands.

Sarah Khalil had her first chapter published in Proceedings of the Royal Society: B on how testosterone regulated CYP2J19 expression in red-backed fairywrens to produce red plumage. She presented some of her new whole-genome resequencing work describing the genetic basis of red coloration in hybrid fairywrens at the virtual North American Ornithological Conference in August. She was also invited to give a virtual seminar talk at Kenessaw State University in October, and very much enjoyed connecting with the students and faculty there and discussing her PhD work. Sarah is spending most of her time at home analyzing and writing up her other chapters.

Kaushik Narasimhan successfully defended his thesis prospectus and has advanced to candidacy. He also submitted his manuscript about a range extension for the long-tailed weasel in Ecuador and is putting the final touches on the manuscript for the first chapter of his dissertation. He is excited to head to Ecuador to start field research at the FCAT station!

Annelise Blanchette performed some field work over the summer to band nestling mockingbirds in the neighborhood surrounding Tulane. She also worked on a manuscript from her master’s on the antipredator behavior of the green and black poison frog in Costa Rica and intends to submit it for review by the holiday season. Additionally, she decided to include the Anolis lizards in her dissertation and named Dr. Alex Gunderson a co-advisor to complement Jordan’s skills and knowledge. She has continued collaborating with local printmaker Pippin Frisbie-Calder on The Mockingbird Project to create a unique and educational experience for a virtual Mardi Gras 2021!

Mike Ellis started a manuscript exploring how fragmentation may be causing humid forest bird communities to transition into semi-humid forest bird communities. He also began a new remote sensing project with the American Bird Conservancy examining the effects of low impact forestry on biodiversity in northwestern Ecuador. He’ll continue these projects through the fall semester before heading to Ecuador in January to begin his Fulbright Fellowship. He also recently had a paper coauthored with former lab member Rachel Cook and others accepted for publication in the Journal of Landscape Ecology.

Luke Anderson spent the last few weeks of the semester in Ecuador at the FCAT station chasing manakins. He has been learning a tremendous amount about their basic biology and honing his mist netting and behavioral observation skills. He also finished an article on behavior away from the lek in long-wattled umbrellabirds and has submitted it for review – fingers crossed!

Jordan Karubian has been keeping busy during Fall 2020, the Semester Like No Other. He has had a few papers come out, including Sarah Khalil’s first thesis chapter on production of the eponymous red plumage on the back of male red-backed fairy-wrens, former MS student Rachel Cook’s paper on diversity of mammals and terrestrial birds in forest fragments (with Mike Ellis and lab alums Tadeo Ramirez and Luke Browne), and former honors thesis student Tadeo Ramirez’s paper on the phenology of the Chapil palm Oenocarpus bataua in Ecuador. He has also put a lot of energy into the conservation work of FCAT, which has recently expanded its reserve size from 164 ha to 550 ha and is starting an ambitious experimental reforestation project – we are looking for passionate and committed young biologists and conservationists to come and join us, so it that sounds like you, reach out!

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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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Spring 2019

Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Spring 2019

Spring has come and gone, and the heat is here to stay in New Orleans. All members of the lab have been busy and productive this semester!

First things first – congratulations to newly minted Ph.D. Candidates John Jones and Sarah Khalil for successfully defending their PhD thesis prospectus’ and to Lauren Hitt, Kyu Min Huh, and Shayna Ross for successfully defending their undergraduate Honors Theses! Good job everyone!

The plus one master’s students have been equally successful in finishing up their programs and preparing to graduate. Congratulations to Rachel Cook, Akhila Gopal, Jiawen Liu, and A.J. Pate.

Further congratulations to our graduating seniors – Lauren Hitt, Kyu Min Huh, and Shayna Ross.

We also welcome undergraduates Margaux Armfield, Sarah Lueder, and Erin Sheehy to the lab, all of whom will be conducting Honors Theses, with Sarah Lueder traveling to Ecuador this summer to collect data for her Honors Thesis.

The PhD students have survived another year and are preparing for the next steps in their academic careers.

Zoe Diaz-Martin attended a landscape genomics course at UNAM, Morelia, Mexico in January. This spring she was awarded the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Grants in Aid of Research (SICB GIAR) as well as the International Palm Society’s Endowment Fund Award. This summer she will be co-instructing two summer courses: Conservation Genetics for the Tulane Summer Scholars Program and Tropical Biology and Conservation based at the new FCAT reserve in Ecuador. In addition to teaching, Zoe will be presenting her work at the Evolution Conference in June.

John Jones defended and passed her prospectus and is now officially a Ph.D. candidate! He also received an Endeavour Leadership Program Research Award from the Australian Department of Education. This fellowship sponsors John to spend the Fall 2019 semester in Australia, conducting behavioral endocrinology field research on red-backed fairywrens. He left us for Papua New Guinea in early May for the final field season of his dissertation research after successfully defending his prospectus. He, along with lab alums Erik Enbody and Jenny Hazlehurst, published a paper in Emu describing the social structure and life history of white-shouldered fairywrens and gave a talk at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting in January. We will all miss him while he is away!

Sarah Khalil also defended and passed her prospectus and is now officially a Ph.D. candidate! In January, she presented her work on the relationship between testosterone, gene expression, and carotenoid plumage in red-backed fairywrens at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) where she was a finalist for the Division of Comparative Endocrinology Best Student Presentation Awards. This spring semester, she is working in the lab of committee member Dr. Irby Lovette at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on a whole-genome resequencing project investigating the genetic basis for red coloration in hybrid fairywrens. She is excited to present this work at the American Ornithological Society this June in Anchorage, Alaska where she has been invited to speak at the symposium “Lessons from avian hybrid zones and the maintenance of species boundaries.”

Kaushik Narasimhan is gearing up for a long field season this summer, obtaining three grants for himself and his research assistant, Lewis Greenstein. He will test if the survival advantage of rare genotypes occurs across multiple palm species using a common guard experiment and the relationship of plant immune resistance (R) genes in promoting this survival advantage. Moreover, he will also assist with undergraduate projects in the new FCAT reserve over the summer. Kaushik is wrapping the frugivory camera trapping study, yielding a large and “fruitful” dataset (pun intended). Also, the videos from the camera trap have revealed at least one species that was not previously recorded in Ecuador, and Kaushik is working with a collaborator to produce a communication detailing a range extension for Mustela frenata in NW Ecuador.

Annelise Blanchette attended the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting in January and spent this semester refining her methods and getting ready for her first field season in New Orleans. She will spend the summer monitoring mockingbird nests and piloting behavioral studies on adults. Further, she will work with Akhila Gopal to study the Anolis lizard and quantify the amount of lead in some plants commonly found in the city. Annelise also assisted Lauren Hitt with her Honors Thesis and is very excited to work through all the data.

Mike Ellis assisted Kyu Min Huh with her hummingbird research for her honors thesis and collaborated with Rachel Cook and others on a camera trap study of diversity from Ecuador. He also spent a month in Ecuador training new field personnel for TMA and has begun integrating data from TMA and FCAT mist netting efforts. This summer he returns to Ecuador to identify new research sites and expand pilot data collection for his PhD thesis research. He’ll also be working with tropical ecology classes from Texas State, Tulane, and la Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo while deepening collaboration with the FCAT bird banding team.

And finally, the advisor who makes this all possible for us has been incredibly busy this semester.

Jordan Karubian traveled to Ecuador assist with construction of a field station at FCAT’s new reserve in northwest Ecuador. He has been preparing grant proposals for expanded research and conservation work, and is looking forward to returning to Ecuador later this summer, where he will co-lead a tropical field biology course for Tulane undergraduates (with Zoe Diaz Martin and Renata Ribeiro).

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Fall 2018

Posted by on Nov 30, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fall 2018

The cold weather has arrived in New Orleans and to stay warm all members of the lab have been keeping busy!

This semester we welcomed Ph.D. students Annelise Blanchette and Mike Ellis to the lab! Annelise comes to us from John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH, where she earned her M.S. in biology. She will be working on mockingbirds here in New Orleans, with a focus on how environmental lead may impact behavior. She is happy to escape the cold winters of the north! Mike has come back to the states from Ecuador where he works as the Director of Research for Third Millennium Alliance, a conservation non-profit. His research will be based in Ecuador and focus on avian diversity in fragmented landscapes.

We also welcomed M.S. students Rachel Cook, Akhila Gopal, Jiawen Liu, and A.J. Pate and senior undergraduate Kyu Min Huh.

We are excited to have so many new faces in the lab, and for all of the exciting research ideas being pursued.

The returning members of the lab have been very busy the past couple of months.

Zoë Diaz-Martin is continuing to work on completing her lab work and data analysis related to adaptation and gene flow in a Neotropical palm tree, Oenocarpus bataua. She submitted her first chapter for publication and presented that work at the Ecological Society of America’s 2018 conference in New Orleans. Complementing her basic research, she continues to work on a community-based conservation initiative supporting local residents in creating an eco-tourism reserve at the Refugio del Gavilan in northwestern Ecuador.

John Jones returned from Papua New Guinea after successfully completing two different experiments as part of his dissertation. He is spending most of the fall semester writing grants to continue to fund his next steps in PNG as well as in Australia. John also co-authored a publication the effect of soil-based lead in New Orleans on northern mockingbird aggression.

Sarah Khalil successfully completed her second year, presenting her work linking circulating carotenoids to plumage phenotype at the American Ornithological Society (AOS) conferences in April. She was also awarded the AOS Hesse Research Award to support her work. This summer, she travelled back to her field site in Australia for her second field season, while concurrently leading this year’s crew of 6 NSF IRES undergraduates. While in Australia, she presented at the Queensland Ornithological Conference in June and at the national conferences for the Australian Society for the Study of Animal Behavior. She is now back in New Orleans, spending most of her time writing and mentoring students in the lab.

Kaushik Narasimhan had an exciting field season in Ecuador field testing GPS tracking devices. This semester he has pivoted from studying seed dispersal to focusing on the mechanisms behind survival advantage of rare genotypic individuals of neotropical tree species. He is gearing up for a big field season next semester to conduct an experiment testing for rare genotypic survival advantage across multiple species. He is also spearheading a frugivory camera trapping project, which is proceeding quickly and has resulted in two grants being awarded to undergraduate participants. He has two papers in review from his master’s research into Amazonian bat community ecology.

Jordan Karubian received grants from the Disney Conservation Fund for conservation work in Ecuador with FCAT, the lab’s partner in-country NGO, and from the RESTORE Center of Excellence program for work on brown pelican ecology with Paul Leberg. He has published new articles in New Phytolo gist (with lab alum Luke Browne, Browne and Karubian 2018), Behavioral Ecology (with lab alum Erik Enbody, Enbody et al. 2018); Molecular Ecology (one with lab alum Luke Browne, Browne and Karubian 2018 and Browne et al. 2018), Neotropical Ornithology (with honors student Michael Mahoney and other lab members, Mahoney et al. 2018), PLoS One (Rivero-de Aguilar et al. 2018), Austral Ecology (with NSF IRES undergraduate students, Sommer et al. 2018), and Science of the Total Environment (with Stephanie McClelland and lab members, McClelland et al. 2018).

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