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     Current Bonier Lab Members

Fran Bonier, Assistant Professor

My research interests are broad and varied, from ecology to behavior, physiology to evolution. In general, all of this varied work is organized by one theme: response to challenges.
I am fascinated by the challenging conditions that organisms face, and the myriad ways that they respond to those challenges. In addition to being a biologist, I am also a mom to two boys and an amateur equestrian.


Sarena Olson

Sarena Olson, MSc student

I am interested in how parental life history events can affect offspring, specifically how the presence and degree of parasitism in adults can affect their offspring’s growth, development, and response to infection later in life. I have chosen to study avian malaria in red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and to look specifically at the maternal effects of this disease on future generations in the field. To look at these effects, we are conducting large-scale field experiments in a population with exceptionally high rates of infection with avian malaria.

Liam Harrison, MSc student

Environmental factors such as temperature play a major role in shaping individuals, populations, and ecosystems. For my MSc thesis, I am describing plasticity in life history traits of a species of burying beetle, Nicrophorus orbicollis, facing natural variation in temperature. I am also measuring the fitness correlates of this plasticity. This species is ideal for my research because it is sensitive to changes in temperature and exhibits biparental care - a form of parental care that is relatively rare in the insect world. My work will contribute to our understanding of how recent and future climate change might affect this species, and ectotherms more generally.
Liam Harrison


JieYuen Ong, MSc student

I am interested broadly in how selection on behavioral variation in animals leads to adaptation. I am also curious about the physiological mechanisms responsible for variation in behavioral responses to changing environments. Hence, for my project, I am working with Nicrophorus orbicollis, a burying beetle that has complex biparental care and reproductive strategies, looking at how changes in its environment affects life history traits. 

Amelia Cox, MSc student

I am broadly interested in how humans are impacting the other species that surround us, often by causing population declines. Tree swallows are members of a guild of birds that forage on flying insects (i.e., aerial insectivores), many of which are in decline across the globe. Tree swallows are an ideal focal species for testing hypotheses to explain population declines because we have monitored a box-nesting population of tree swallows at the Queen’s University Biological Station for breeding success and individual metrics like timing of breeding, disease status, growth rate, body condition, and survival since 1975, spanning before and during periods of population decline. My MSc research aims to identify likely demographic and environmental causes of tree swallow population decline.


Ivana Schoepf, Postdoctoral associate

I am interested in understanding how individuals partition their energy among different life-history traits and how trade-offs influence their reproductive success and survival, and thus determine population persistence. To do so, I am using the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) as a model to investigate how individuals respond when they are
facing a health challenge, such as a parasite infection. My research is focused on understanding whether higher malarial tolerance reflects health in other ways or is linked to increased costs in terms of energy expenditure. Further, I am interested in looking at how co-infection with parasites from more than one genus influences costs, trade-offs, and health. Read more about my research and publications here. This research is part of a joint collaboration between the Bonier lab and Ignacio Moore at Virginia Tech.


Kennedy Everitt, BSc Honours Thesis Student

I am broadly interested in physiological and behavioural responses to stressors like temperature and disease. Looking at the Tree Swallow population near QUBS, my honours thesis focuses on the impacts of these stressors and how they influence offspring hatching, growth, and fledging.
Kennedy Everitt

 Robyn Lepa

Robyn Lepa, BSc Research Mentorship Student

My research revolves around understanding why individual animals vary in their ability to cope with the challenge of disease and infection. To address this question, I study a population of red-winged blackbirds in which over 95% of individuals are infected with Haemosporidian parasites, including Plasmodium, which causes avian malaria. We see variation in parasite load among individuals in this population and my research project aims to determine if this variation is related to the overall health of the individual birds. My project is part of a larger project in the Bonier lab aimed at determining how physiological dysregulation is linked to Haemosporidian load in red-winged blackbirds.


Zoe Walter, BSc Honours Thesis & NSERC USRA Student

My NSERC project contributed to the Bonier lab's ongoing studies on malaria in red-winged blackbirds. I provided, and critically evaluated, care of captive red-winged blackbirds from egg to fledging, and also completed a broad review of the fitness costs of haemosporidian infections, with a focus on effects of maternal infection on offspring.

For my undergraduate honours thesis, am examining biparental care behaviour in Nicrophorus orbicollis, a burying beetle native to Ontario. My study is following up on a pilot project in our lab that revealed that temperature may influence male parental behaviour more than female behaviour in this species.
Zoe Walter

           Former Lab Members