I completed my undergraduate work at McGill University in environmental biology where I became interested in birds through my first biology job on Canada’s endangered loggerhead shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus migrans). I was then offered a Master’s program at Doñana Biological Station in Spain through McGill University (MacDonald Campus). For two years, I studied nest site selection by Spanish Imperial Eagles (Aquila adalberti), a highly endangered bird of prey, in Spain’s Doñana National Park and earned the Foreign Government Award (ICCS) for Spain.
From 1997 to 1998, I worked for NAFTA’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation before beginning my Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology at York University in Toronto, Ontario. This work centered on the evolutionary history of avian migration and geographic patterns of vocalizations in the Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans) and required extensive travel throughout the United States and Mexico.
My first postdoctoral fellowship was at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center researching the plumage microbiota and how migration affects avian bacterial communities. This work was the first application of genetic fingerprinting in the field of avian microbiology as it relates to migration. For my second postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University was on the energetic cost of human-related disturbance in endangered species breeding in the Fort Hood military installation in Central Texas using heart rate telemetry. This study, which was funded by the Department of Defense (Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, SERDP), was the first to perform this type of research on small free-living birds. Together with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and Severn Electronics, electrical engineer, Paul Kelley, I co-developed the software Vireo (please follow link for more information or to obtain a copy), which calculates heart rate from remote recordings using heart rate telemetry.
Most recently, as a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, I co-launched and headed the Animal Mortality Monitoring Program as part of the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats initiative PREDICT program, that aims to build a global warning system for diseases that move between wildlife and humans. We developed a surveillance system that allows people to report sick or dead animal as an early warning system for such diseases. We concurrently developed a mobile phone application SI-AMMP with a local IT company, MindAfrica, that allows users to enter field data, GPS locations and also has photo capture options. Please go to the Research page for more details.
My research has been published in Microbial Ecology, Proceedings of the Royal Society London B, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Interviews and radio broadcasts can be heard here and here.