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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. MSc students Liam Harrison and JieYuen Ong are currently leading this work.

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. Postdoc Dr. Ivana Schoepf and MSc student Sarena Olson are currently leading this ongoing research project.

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 just starting to apply a citizen science approach to the urban birds of Ontario, and I am actively looking for new grad students to join the lab to help with this exciting new project! Check out the prospective students page for info on how to get in touch if you are interested!

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. Our recent focus with the tree swallow study was aimed at understanding causes of the dramatic decline of this population, which has been ongoing for the past 3 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. In work led by MSc student Amelia Cox, we used the incredible 40+ year data set on the QUBS tree swallows to better understand drivers of these declines. Check out her recent publications to see what we found.

We are no longer running the long-term tree swallow project - we have passed it along to Dr. Steve Lougheed, director of QUBS.

tree swallow

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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