I am an evolutionary biologist with strong interests in behavioural endocrinology. My primary research goals are aimed at understanding adaptive phenotypic plasticity, particularly in individuals experiencing different environmental pressures, being climate driven or parasitic in nature.
My research is mostly empirical and typically employs the use of field manipulation experiments performed in wild species directly in their natural environment. I typically employ a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle my questions, often looking at proximate mechanisms and ultimate reasons leading to individuals displaying certain adaptations. Some of the topics I have addressed so far include: sociality (mating systems in particular), dispersal, parents-offspring conflicts, performance and personality.
Currently I am working on maternal effects and host-parasite interactions.
recent and Up coming events
Jun & Jul 2018 - Updates from the field
After a few months in the field sampling red-winged blackbirds, the end is near, and in just over a week we will be officially done with this year data collection. So far we have caught and sampled around 150 birds: quite an achievement! Thought it's been a bumpy ride at times, that's part of the joys of field work; and I am always sad to leave it behind. But this is nowhere near the end, in fact the more interesting part is yet to come as I get ready to analyze the first samples in the lab.
Also, I have finally given in and joined Twitter. You can follow more news about my research and my adventures here.
May 2018 - first nestlings start to emerge
that time of the year when babies of all kinds are everywhere. Our red-winged blackbirds did not disappoint and here is an example of one of our very first nestlings of the season.
Apr 2018 - Field Season begins!
Queen's University Biological Station April-August
I am excited to be getting ready to leave for the field again soon. For this year we have more experiments lined up with our red-winged blackbirds. Watch this space for more info.
Jan 2018 - SICB Annual Meeting, San Francisco (USA)
Marriott Marquis hotel, Foothill G, Section 14, 11:00am
Schoepf I, Moore IT, Bonier F; Queen’s University, Kingston, Virginia Tech
Effects of Malarial Infection on Reproduction and Offspring Phenotype in a Wild Passerine
Avian malaria is a widespread phenomenon, found in all avian orders and on almost every continent. While avian malaria has been linked to the decline of some insular birds, in most species its effects are sub-lethal. Several studies in captive and wild populations have shown that chronic, low intensity infections reduce survival and reproductive success of infected birds. However, it is unclear how infections in mothers affect offspring. We manipulated infection in wild red-winged blackbird mothers (Agelaius phoeniceus) and measured effects of experimentally reduced parasite load on reproduction of treated adult females as well as growth, physiology, and immune function of their offspring. In the wild, red-winged blackbirds are able to tolerate infection fairly well, breeding successfully and surviving across years. However, past work with individuals from this population in captivity has revealed significant costs associated with avian malarial infections. Birds at our field site experience an unusually high incidence of Haemosporidian infection (>90 % of individuals infected with 1 or more genus of Haemosporidian). To reduce infections, we caught adult females before onset of egg-laying, and treated them with anti-malarial medications or a control solution. Our results provide experimental evidence that decreased avian malarial infections lead to higher reproductive success in adult females and affect offspring quality and viability.