With COVID impacting many student projects in our lab, we won't be taking on additional graduate students at this time. We hope to take on additional students to start in spring or fall 2023.
Please note: I am currently unable to take on international students unless they have fellowship support already in place.
Graduate work in our lab is intense – we seek extremely motivated students who have demonstrated an ability to take projects from beginning to end and who have a passion for understanding nature.
Students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies should email me with a resume or cv, a brief description of their graduate project interests, and a university transcript (unofficial is fine). Please note that I am sometimes slow to respond to emails, particularly during peak teaching times.
Here are a few potential graduate projects that we hope to pursue:
(1) Does adaptation to the cold compromise competitive ability in Nicrophorus carrion beetles?
Based on Jill Wettlaufer's graduate work, we now know that the early season specialist, N. sayi, can stay active at cold temperatures, even at temperatures below freezing. Later in the spring, however, N. sayi loses most carcasses (their key resource for reproduction) to N. orbicollis. Size determines who wins aggressive contests for carrion, but N. orbicollis is not much larger, on average, than N. sayi. Instead, N. orbicollis is much more abundant, and thus the largest individual coming to claim a carcass later in the season is more likely to be N. orbicollis. Does cold tolerance compromise abundance in N. sayi, and if yes, how?
(2) Why do burying beetles bury?
Burying beetles are famous for burying small vertebrate carcasses for breeding. What function does burying the carcasses serve? Previous work suggests that burying reduces the likelihood of the carcass being discovered by competitors and then usurped. But we also know that the depth that beetles bury depends on other environmental factors, like ambient temperature. The goal of this work is to experimentally test among alternative hypotheses for the fitness benefits of burying carcasses in the burying beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis.
(3) Reinforcement, sexual selection, and the evolution of diverse ornamentation
Pairing or hybridizing with the wrong species can be costly. These costs can favour the evolution of divergent signals (reinforcement) that help individuals to mate within the same species. In species with strong sexual selection (e.g., hummingbirds, birds-of-paradise), we might expect reinforcement to interact with sexual selection to influence the diversification of signals and ornaments. This project would test this idea across multiple bird families with strong sexual selection.
For undergraduate students interested in honours projects, please see this page.