Posts by Lab Site Editor

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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Spring 2018

Posted by on Mar 14, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Spring 2018

Spring has sprung, and the lab has some exciting news – two of our Ph.D. candidates, Erik Enbody and Brock Geary, are about to fledge!

Erik Enbody is preparing to defend his dissertation in March 2018 and, following his defense, he will begin a postdoctoral research position in Dr. Leif Andersson’s lab at Uppsala University in Sweden. Since the last update, Erik coauthored a meta-analysis on extra pair paternity rates across Malurus fairywrens that was recently published in Molecular Ecology (Brouwer et al. 2017), submitted a manuscript, and has been working through a mountain of genomics data on white-shouldered fairywrens.

Brock Geary will defend his dissertation in April 2018, and following his defense, he will begin a postdoctoral research position in Dr. Paul Leberg’s lab at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he will continue his work on the foraging ecology of brown pelicans in the Gulf. Since the last update, Brock has submitted a manuscript and worked through thousands of GPS locations to map brown pelican foraging ecology in the Gulf of Mexico.

Zoë Diaz-Martin had a productive fall semester teaching the ecology lab and making progress with lab work. She also continued a conservation oriented project that bolsters local conservation efforts in northwest Ecuador. She looks forward to traveling this semester to Dr. Paul Gugger’s lab at the University of Maryland to begin her genomic work of Oenocarpus bataua.

John Jones spent most of fall indoors, revamping his dissertation project to focus now on behavioral endocrinology and multimodal signals in female white shouldered fairywrens. He is preparing to head back to Papua New Guinea in April for another field season. He also published the last golden-winged warbler paper to come out of his master’s study population in Wilson Journal of Ornithology (Tisdale and Jones et al. 2018), as well as collaborative paper on migratory connectivity in PNAS (Kramer et al. 2018) .

Sarah Khalil spent the past semester developing her thesis ideas, focusing on the evolution and mechanisms of carotenoid-based sexual signals. She travelled back to Brisbane, Australia for a quick trip in November to collect some more samples during the breeding season, and also presented preliminary results from her 2017 field season at the meeting for the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology in January. She is preparing for her next field season to Australia in May to collect more data, as well as to lead the new cohort of NSF IRES undergraduate students.

Kaushik Narasimhan is on the verge of completing his first year in the PhD program at Tulane. He led a team of undergraduate students that gathered data on frugivory at palm trees from motion-activated camera traps, and is preparing for pilot fieldwork related to GPS tracking of umbrellabirds over the summer in Ecuador.

Jordan Karubian received a grant from the Morris Animal Foundation for research on how lead impacts mockingbird behavior, with collaborators Dr. Howard Mielke from the Tulane School of Medicine and Dr. Renata Ribeiro from Tulane’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. He has published new articles in Acta Oecologica (with lab alums Kym Ottewell and Luke Browne, Ottewell et al. 2017), Behavioural Processes (with lab alum Jenny Hazlehurst, in press), Journal of Tropical Ecology (with lab alums Scott Walter and Luke Browne, as well as members of our partner organization FCAT, Walter et al. 2017), Molecular Ecology (with Erik Enbody, Brouwer et al. 2017), and New Phytologist (with lab alum Luke Browne, accepted).

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Fall 2017

Posted by on Oct 5, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fall 2017

Fall has only just begun here in New Orleans, yet the lab has been up to lots of exciting things in the last few months!

First of all, we want to congratulate Dr. Luke Browne and Dr. Samantha Lantz, both of whom finished their Ph.D.’s in May 2017. Luke received the ‘Top Thesis’ award in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and has gone on to a post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA in the lab of Dr. Victoria Sork. Sam received Tulane University’s ’34 Award’, and is teaching at Cal State University Channel Islands and working in the private sector as an environmental consultant.

We are excited to welcome our newest Ph.D. student to the lab, Kaushik Narasimhan. Kaushik is funded from a Louisiana Board of Regents Fellowship. After helping lead our Tropical Ecology and Conservation class in Ecuador and finishing his Masters Thesis at Antioch University over the summer, Kaushik has been busy taking classes and preparing to go back to Ecuador next summer for his first field season. He is also spearheading a project to process and analyze several years worth of camera trap data from Ecuador.

Brock Geary, entering the fifth year of his Ph.D., has had quite a productive few months. He lined up a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Paul Leberg to continue his work on pelicans after his expected graduation in May 2018, and continued his fieldwork with brown pelicans this summer. He received multiple grants to support his work, including the AOS Research Award, the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission’s University Research Grant, the LA SeaGrant UROP and Tulane Newcomb Foundation grants. In addition, he presented on his work at the American Ornithological Society (AOS-SOC) in Michigan and had a paper accepted at PLoS ONE (Geary et al. 2017)! Congrats Brock!

Erik Enbody spent his summer indoors, at the lab bench at Tulane and in collaborator Scott Edward’s lab at Harvard creating libraries for his sequencing work on Papua New Guinea’s White-shouldered Fairy-wren, which is supported by his NSF doctoral dissertation improvement grant (DDIG). In August, he presented the results of his recent behavioral work on Malurus wrens at the AOS-SOC meeting in East Lansing, MI.

Zoë Diaz-Martin completed her field season in June, after traveling across Ecuador to collect the bulk of the samples she’ll need for her dissertation. Afterwards, she helped to teach Tulane’s Tropical Ecology and Conservation course in Ecuador. She was recently awarded the Mellon Mays Travel and Research grant and is currently back in New Orleans completing lab work and data analysis. She’s looking forward to traveling to Wales in November to participate in the PR Statistics Landscape Genetic Data Analysis workshop.

John Jones returned from Papua New Guinea and Australia after an extended field season this past summer. He presented the results of this pilot research at the AOS-COS meeting in August, and had a paper on eastern bluebird competition accepted for publication in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (Albers et al. 2017).

Sarah Khalil spent her summer chasing both birds and undergrads in Australia. She led an incredible crew of 6 undergraduates through the NSF IRES program, where they conducted independent research on behavioral ecology in the red-backed fairywrens. Sarah spent most of her time in the field catching and collecting samples from the wrens, and is now analyzing her data back in New Orleans. She is excited to attend the conference for the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) in San Francisco this January to present her preliminary results from the season.

Jordan Karubian led the Tropical Field Biology and Conservation course along with co-instructors Dr. Renata Ribeiro and Dr. Luke Browne in Ecuador in May. During this two-week course 13 Tulane undergrads worked closely with our Ecuadorian colleagues from FCAT to gain first hand experience in research and conservation. He also had fun visiting Brazil over the summer. Jordan had four new articles accepted since the last update: two in PLoS One, one in Emu, and one in Journal of Insect Conservation.

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