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N. orbicollis

Adaptive plasticity in life history traits

Among plastic traits, life history traits are central to maximizing fitness in a changing environment. How many offspring should an individual produce? At what age should an individual begin breeding? How much care should parents provide their offspring? Answers to these questions are all dependent on the environmental conditions an individual experiences, thus each individual must integrate signals from its environment and translate those signals into adaptive expression of life history traits. We are seeking to address these questions using field experiments with free-ranging birds and captive experiments in beetles from the genus Nicrophorus.

Dynamic host-parasite interactions

Parasites and pathogens are among the most important selective pressures shaping host life history strategies. Additionally, the environment within a host can shape a parasite’s life history strategy. Thus host-parasite systems offer unique opportunities for studying interacting forms of adaptive plasticity, with the parasite contributing to a dynamic environment facing hosts, and the host representing a dynamic environment facing the parasite. We are currently addressing questions related to adaptive plasticity in hosts and parasites using a local breeding population of red-winged blackbirds with near 100% infection rates with haemosporidian parasites. This work is currently led by PhD student Laura Schoenle. Postdoc Dr. Ivana Schoepf is currently developing tools that will allow us to take this research in exciting new directions.

red-winged blackbird

urban peregrine

The influence of urbanization on birds

Urbanization is one of the most dramatic ways that humans influence nature. As habitats become altered by urbanization, most species do not survive, and yet a few species persist and even thrive. What determines which species persist in urban environments, and which species do not? In collaboration with Paul Martin, we are striving to answer this question, focusing on a select group of species for which we have specific ecological and behavioural data.

We are also asking for help from ornithologists and birders around the world in compiling the data we need to address our focal questions. If you are familiar with the avifauna of some of the world's largest cities, please visit this site to learn more!

Behavioural ecology and population dynamics of tree swallows

In 1975, Dr. Raleigh Robertson put up 75 artificial nest boxes at the Queen's University Biological Station, starting what has become a long-term study of the behavioural ecology and demography of tree swallows. I took over study and monitoring of this population in 2008, to use them as a system for field experiments in behavioural ecology and evolutionary endocrinology. However, we have recently shifted our focus to understanding causes of the dramatic decline of this population, which has been ongoing for the past 2+ decades. Tree swallows are members of the aerial insectivore foraging guild - a diverse group of birds that is undergoing declines across much of the globe, including marked declines in northeastern North America. We are using our incredible 40+ year data set on the QUBS tree swallows to better understand drivers of these declines.
tree swallow

Contact Us:

Fran Bonier
Assistant Professor
Queen's University
Biology Department
Kingston, ON K7L 3N6

phone: +001.613.533.6000 x77024
email: bonierf@queensu.ca