Burns Lab Updates Spring 2022

Time for an update of recent Burns lab news!

First off, we had a great semester in Biology 524 Ornithology class. It was wonderful to do a full set of in person field trips for the first time since 2018, and we were able to do two sections with the help of Jonah Alderson as TA.  In fact, we saw so many birds that we broke the previous class record of 168 species and saw 169 species this semester. Highlights include this Bald Eagle that we watched fishing at Lake Hodges. More photo highlights of this year’s field trips can be seen here. Thanks to Dr. Nick Barber, Jonah Alderson, and Sarah Hood for field trip help! 

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle, Lake Hodges

MS student Sarah Hood successfully proposed her thesis on evolution of migration in Allen’s Hummingbirds. Sarah is using genomes and isotope analyses to search for genes underlying migration in these tiny birds. Congrats Sarah!

Allen's Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbird, the subject of Sarah’s research

Second year PhD student Michael Tofflemire received grants to support his research from the Chapman fund of the American Museum, the American Ornithological Society, and the Society of Systematic Biologists. Michael is combining species traits with comparative phylogenomics to look at the influence of ecology on generating biodiversity. Way to go Michael! Michael has been spending the academic year at UC Riverside as part of our joint PhD program. Although he is enjoying his time in Riverside, it will be great to have him back full time in San Diego next year.

Wrentit, one of the birds that Michael is studying; photo by Brian Myers

First year MS student Jonah Alderson is off to a great start. He received grants from the American Ornithological Society as well as the Chapman fund of the American Museum to support his research on the genomics of introduced populations of the Scaly-breasted Munia. Way to go Jonah!

Scaly-breasted Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia, the subject of Jonah’s research

Some Alumni News:

Former Burns lab student Brian Myers published another paper from his PhD at SDSU. The paper, published in Animal Behaviour, presents an analysis of complex courtship displays in hummingbirds using a new approach. His analyses reveal how some hybrid hummingbirds show transgressive courtship sequences. You can download the paper here. Brian is currently a post-doc in the Scordato lab at Cal Poly Pomona.

Allen's and Rufous Hummingbird courtship elements, displays, and bouts, from Myers et al. 2022
Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbird courtship elements, displays, and bouts, figure from Myers et al. 2022

Former Burns lab MS student Amelia Demery (now a PhD student at Cornell) received the Florence Merriam Bailey Award, given by the American Ornithological Society to the outstanding article published in Ornithology by an early-career AOS member. She received the award for her paper “Bill size, bill shape, and body size constrain bird song evolution on a macroevolutionary scale”. Amelia’s paper was one of the chapters of her MS thesis at SDSU. Cornell also wrote an article about her study. Congrats Amelia! Here is a link to the paper and here what the AOS has to say about Amelia’s paper and her award:

Description of Amelia's award from the American Ornithological Society

Burns lab associate and former MS student Allison Shultz received the Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Award from the American Ornithological Society. This is an incredibly prestigious honor and well deserved! Allison will be giving a plenary at this year’s conference in Puerto Rico. Congratulations Allison! Here’s what the AOS has to say about Allison’s many contributions to the field of ornithology:   

Description of Allison's Award from American Ornithological Society

Amelia & Allison, award winners!
Amelia & Allison, award winners!

Lastly, here’s a picture of the Burns lab celebrating Sarah’s successful proposal. First time the 2021-2022 version of the Burns lab was able to get together!

Burns lab 2021-2022; Sarah, Michael, Kevin, and Jonah
Sarah, Michael, Kevin, and Jonah
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