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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2020 Virtual NAOC

Burns lab members past and present will be well represented at next week’s virtual North American Ornithological Conference. In a perfect world, this meeting was going to be in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, the conference and talks look awesome. Here is a list of presentations by both former and current Burns lab members (in bold). All times Eastern:

8/10/20 14:30
Workshop: Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Ornithology: Mini Discussion
Organizers: Amelia-Juliette Demery, Jennifer Houtz, & Shailee Shah

8/13/20 10:45
An Examination of Genomic and Acoustic Differentiation Between Eastern, Lilian’s, and Western Meadowlarks
Johanna K Beam, Erik R Funk, Scott A Taylor

8/13/20 10:45
The Role of Plumage Coloration in the Diversification of High Elevation and High Latitude Finches
Erik R Funk, Nicholas A Mason, Garth M Spellman, Kristen C Ruegg, Kevin Winker, Scott A Taylor, Erika Zavaleta, Jack J Withrow

8/13/20 11:00
The Evolution of Plumage Coloration and Its Underlying Mechanisms in Male and Female Tanagers
Allison J Shultz, Jacqueline E Dall, Dakota E McCoy, Kevin J Burns

8/13/20 14:30
The Relative Importance of Natural Selection and Sexual Selection in Speciation in the Tanagers
Rosalyn M Price-Waldman, Amelia J Demery, Nicholas A Mason, Allison J Shultz, Pascal O Title, Kevin J Burns

8/13/20 10:45
Natural History Collections are Critical and Underutilized Resources for Contemporary and Future Studies of Urban Evolution
Allison J Shultz, Benjamin J Adams, Kayce C Bell, William B Ludt, Gregory B Pauly, Jann E Vendetti

8/13/20 18:35
Pantropical gene flow in three booby species
Danny Jackson, Erik Funk, Vicki Friesen, Dave Anderson, Tammy Steeves, Jamie Morris-Pocock, Scott Taylor

8/15/20 10:15
Systematics, Species Delimitation and Mitochondrial Introgression in the Narcissus Flycatcher Complex.
Herman L Mays, Isao Nishiumi, Bailey D McKay, William Mauck

8/15/20 10:45
The Impact of Natural History on Plumage Color in Cardinalidae
Benjamin Scott, Kevin Burns

8/15/20 12:35
Plenary: Natural history collections as windows on avian ecology and evolution
Nicholas Mason

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2019 AOS in Anchorage

Burns Lab 2019

Burns Lab at 2019 American Ornithology Society meetings in Anchorage, Alaska


Burns lab members past and present will be well represented at next week’s American Ornithological Society Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Here is a list of presentations by both former and current Burns lab members (in bold):

Wednesday 1100
Population Genomics of Hawaiian House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus): Investigating Genetic Variation of an Introduced Population
Demery AC, Edwards S, Shultz AJ

Wednesday 1400
A Tale of Two Transects: Sexual Selection Across a Hummingbird Hybrid Zone
Myers BM, Rankin DT, Brelsford A, Burns KJ, Clark CJ

Wednesday 1400
Integrative Approaches to Species Delimitation in Birds
Cicero C, Mason NA, Jimenez RA, Wait DR, Wang-Claypool CY, Bowie RC

Wednesday 1430
The Relative Roles of Natural Selection and Sexual Selection in Speciation in the Tanagers
Price-Waldman RM, Demery AJ, Mason NA, Shultz AJ, Title PO, Burns KJ

Wednesday 1615
Coalescent-Based Species Delimitation in Avian Taxonomy: History, Promise, and Pitfalls
Mason NA, Fletcher NK, Gill B, Funk C, Zamudio K

Wednesday 1700
Phylogenomics of the Parrots of the World
Smith BT, Brumfield R, Ferreira M, Mauck W, Merwin J, Wright T, Joseph LG

Wednesday 17:30
Pathogen-mediated genotypes of colorful phenotypes: integrating research across organizational levels to study biodiversity
Shultz AJ

Thursday 1045
Admixture Mapping the Genetic Basis of Species Differences in Avian Hybrid Zones
Brelsford AT, Nwankwo EC, Myers BM, Clark CJ, Kirschel AN

Thursday 1105
Bill Divergence & Speciation in Corvidae
Scott BF et al.

Thursday 7:30 (kiosk 3 e26)
The Ornithology Collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (LACM)
Shultz AJ

Friday 1100
Genetic Connectivity and Differentiation among Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) Along an Elevational Gradient in the White Mountains of California
Wang-Claypool CY, Mason NA, Cicero C, Bowie RC

Friday 1650
The Long and the Short of It: Linking Genome-Wide Signatures of Selection Across Evolutionary Timescales in Birds
Shultz AJ, Arnold B, Sackton TB

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Congratulations Rosalyn!

Congratulations to Rosalyn Price-Waldman for successfully defended her MS thesis. Her project investigated the interplay of natural and sexual selection in diversification. Rosalyn will begin working on her PhD in Cassie Stoddard’s lab at Princeton this fall. She will be missed and we wish her the best of luck!

Rosalyn Price-Waldman

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Welcome Ben!

The Burns lab welcomes new MS student Ben Scott. Ben received his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Occidental College. While at Occidental, Ben worked in the Moore Lab of Zoology with John McCormack on phylogeny and trait evolution of New World Jays. Ben also spent some time working at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, home of the largest egg collection in the world. Welcome Ben!



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Rosalyn at Molecular Evolution Workshop

Rosalyn had a busy summer, starting with two weeks working with collaborators in the Faircloth lab at LSU and ending with ten days at the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Workshop on Molecular Evolution in Woods Hole, MA. The workshop provided an overview on topics in molecular evolution including phylogenetic inference, population genetics, comparative genomics, and much more. One focus of the workshop was hands-on instruction in the latest software, often by the authors of the programs. The workshop was an incredible experience, and Rosalyn is excited to apply what she learned to her thesis work on the phylogenomics and trait evolution of tanagers.

Workshop in Molecular Evolution

Attendees at 2018 Workshop on Molecular Evolution held at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA

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Origin of Darwin’s Finches

Darwin’s finches are a classic example of adaptive radiation, but few studies have attempted to reconstruct the biogeographic origins of Darwin’s finches. Burns lab MS student Erik Funk studied this question in the third chapter of his thesis which was published last month in the Auk (and put on the cover). This study revisited an early paper by Kevin Burns, Shannon Hackett, and the late Nedra Klien (Burns et al. 2002). The earlier study showed that Darwin’s finches likely originated from a Caribbean species, given that so many of their close relatives are found in the region. Erik’s paper provides an important update, with improved biogeographic methods and a newer phylogeny. Erik’s results were a bit more equivocal than the 2002 paper. Although a Caribbean origin is plausible and likely, a South American origin can not be ruled out. You can read the paper here, and there was also a nice summary of the overall question and Erik’s results in the Guardian.

Auk Cover

July 2018 Auk Cover, highlighting Funk and Burns (2018). Picture of Vegetarian Finch by Scott Taylor.

Origin of Darwin's Finches

Biogeographic Reconstruction of Darwin’s Finches

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Congratulations Amelia!

Congratulations to Amelia Demery who successfully defended her MS thesis last week. Her research involved looking at the role morphology plays in tanager diversification. Amelia will begin working on her PhD at Cornell University this fall. We will miss her energy and enthusiasm, but we wish her the best of luck!

Amelia Demery

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Burns lab at 2018 AOS

The Burns lab had a great time at last month’s meeting of the American Ornithological Society. Four presentations had Burns lab members as authors. Amelia and Rosalyn presented parts of their MS theses, and Nick presented work he performed in John McCormack’s lab. Plus, we got to hang out with past Burns lab students Nick Mason and Erik Funk and future Burns lab student Ben Scott. In addition to all the science, we enjoyed many excellent birds both during and after the meeting. Amelia and Rosalyn both received travel awards to attend the meeting. Amelia, who is chair of the student affairs committee, did a great job as MC of the student quiz bowl. Former Burns lab student Nick Mason received the Marion Jenkinson Service Award. Lastly, Kevin Burns was part of team that received the Brina Kessel Award given to the best paper in the Auk in the last 4 years. They received the award for their paper on 9-primaried oscines relationships:

Barker, F. K., K. J. Burns, J. Klicka, S. M. Lanyon, and I. J. Lovette. 2015. New insights into New World biogeography: An integrated view from the phylogeny of blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, warblers, and allies. Auk 132:333-348.

Burns Lab 2018

Burns lab past, present, and future at 2018 AOS Meeting: Erik Funk, Nick Maon, Nick Vinciguerra, Rosalyn Price-Waldman, Amelia Demery, Kevin Burns, and Ben Scott

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

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Welcome Nick!

The Burns lab welcomes new MS student Nick Vinciguerra. Nick received his Bachelor of Arts in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado Boulder. After graduating, Nick worked at the Institute of Arctic Biology in Alaska, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and in the lab of John McCormack at Occidental College. Welcome Nick!

Nick Vinciguerra

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