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Queen's University

BIOL 537 2014-15
Dr. P. Martin

Rm:   4320 Bioscience Complex
Tel:   (613) 533-6598
Lab Web Site:
Faculty Web Site:

Our current work focuses on the behaviour, ecology, and evolution of birds, particularly with respect to species interactions (community ecology).

Two types of honours thesis projects are available for this coming year. The first involves field work on birds at the Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS). The second involves comparative analyses of trait evolution in birds. The latter projects rely upon published phylogenetic relationships, genetic data, geographic range data (using GIS), and measures of traits from the literature, museums, or other sources. These latter projects will not require field work.

Please see my webpage and recent papers for more details regarding the research in our lab ( We aim to publish honours thesis projects with undergraduate students as the lead authors. Recent honours theses in our lab were published in PLoS ONE and Animal Behaviour.

Possible Projects:

(1) Individual variation in songs in Yellow-rumped Warblers — Many species show variation in their songs that can allow recognition of individuals. This project will involve recording the songs of individual male (colour-banded) Yellow-rumped Warblers to test the hypothesis that individual males consistently differ in the structure of their songs. Work would be conducted at QUBS.

(2) Colour badges as signals of behavioural dominance among species — Birds commonly use badges (such as the dark throats of House Sparrows) as signals of dominance to other conspecifics. These signals may also extend across species, however, this idea has never been tested. This project will test the hypothesis that colour badges signal behavioural dominance across species using a comparative dataset on birds. The work will involve computer-based estimates of colour patch sizes, coupled with published data on behavioural dominance among closely-related species of birds.

(3) Behaviour and ecology of species interactions— Closely-related species that live together often interact, with important consequences for the behaviour, ecology and evolution of traits in nature. Our work at QUBS this summer will examine interactions among closely-related passerine birds using experiments. This work will create several opportunities for honours projects related to species interactions.

(4) Evolution of bird songs among sympatric, closely-related birds — Closely-related species that live in sympatry may suffer costs of sharing similar traits. For example, colour patterns of closely-related birds are more divergent in sympatry compared with allopatry - a pattern that likely reflects costs of hybridization or misdirected aggression when close relatives share similar colour patterns. The songs of birds perform similar functions to colour patterns, and may also diverge among closely-related species in sympatry. This work would require quantitative measurements of songs of about 250 species of birds to test the hypothesis that songs of closely-related species are more divergent in sympatry as compared with allopatry. This project will be a lot of work.

I will take up to 3 honours thesis students next year.

STARTING DATE: Field projects start in early May with some field work likely in April (negotiable). Field work typically extends to mid July. Non-field projects will require some work in the summer, and intensive work beginning in September.



Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000