Burns Lab Updates

It’s been a while since I updated this page, but a lot has happened in the Burns lab in the past 1.5 years or so. Of course, Covid has been challenging, but we are still continuing, and there are many good things to celebrate. Here are some highlights:

PhD student Brian Myers successfully defended his dissertation and completed an internship with the USGS. He has recently started a post-doc with Liz Scordato at Cal Poly Pomona. 

Brian Myers Defense
Brian’s defense celebration (pre-covid, of course!)

MS student Nick Vinciguerra successfully defended his thesis in Summer 2020 and started a PhD program in the lab of Mike Anderson at the University of New Mexico.

Nick's Thesis
Slide from Nick’s thesis defense looking at 3D bill shape evolution in tanagers.

MS student Ben Scott received research grants that allowed him to visit museums to gather plumage color data from cardinals for his project. He successfully defended his MS proposal in summer 2020 and is well on his way to finishing his degree in Spring 2021. 

Ben Scott Kevin Burns LACM
Ben and Kevin, measuring plumage color of cardinals, grosbeaks, and buntings in Summer 2019 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History

MS student Sarah Hood started in the Burns lab in Fall 2019. Since arriving, she has received an AOS award for her project on Allen’s Hummingbird subspecies and migration and has completed much of the field work for her project. 

Sarah hard at work and her study subject, Allen’s Hummingbird

PhD student Michael Tofflemire joined the Burns lab in Fall 2020. He came to the lab from the University of Washington, where he worked in the lab of John Klicka on phylogeography of the Black-throated Gray Warbler. 

Michael Tofflemire
Michael Tofflemire joined us last Fall

Undergrad Aubtin Rouhbakhsh presented results of his research on Rufous x Allen’s Hummingbird hybrid zone at the 2020 SDSU Student Research Symposium. He graduated in May and is currently applying to graduate school.

Aubtin Rouhbakhsh
Undergrad Aubtin Rouhbakhsh presents results of his research at 2020 SDSU Student Research Symposium in February 2020

We had a great spring semester of Ornithology, even though we had to make the switch to online learning mid-semester. The students of course were disappointed with the loss of the field component, but they all handled the transition well and we had some great field trips before the shutdown. 

Ornithology Students 2020
Last Ornithology field trip before the Covid shutdown, at Lake Hodges watching grebe courtship

Two publications I would like to highlight:

Brian Myers published the first chapter of his dissertation in the Auk (now called Ornithology). This chapter focused on behavior and morphological changes across the Allen’s x Rufous Hummingbird Hybrid Zone.

Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbird and figure from Brian’s paper showing hummingbird displays:
Myers, B. M.*, D. T. Rankin, K. J. Burns, and C. J. Clark. 2019. Behavioral and morphological evidence of an Allen’s × Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin × S. rufus) hybrid zone in southern Oregon and northern California. The Auk: Ornithological Advances 136 (4) ukz049

Former Burns lab student Rosalyn Price-Waldman published the first chapter from her MS thesis in Evolution. She co-authored this work with another former Burns lab student, Allison Shultz, who is now the curator of birds at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and also and adjunct at SDSU. The paper showed that speciation rates are correlated with changes in plumage color complexity in tanagers. 

Figure from Rosalyn and Allison’s paper looking at color complexity and speciation in tanagers:
Price-Waldman, R. M.*, Shultz, A. J., and K. J. Burns. 2020. Speciation rates are correlated with changes in plumage color complexity in the largest family of songbirds. Evolution. 74 (6), 1155-1169.

Here’s our last picture together, before the Covid pandemic. Taken at the Welcome Reception for new grad students in September 2019.

Burns Lab 2019
Burns Lab September 2019, Welcome reception for new students

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