Welcome to the Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) one of the premier scientific field stations in North America. For more than 60 years, researchers and students have gathered at QUBS to conduct research and participate in courses spanning ecology, evolution, conservation and environmental biology.
Tosha Kelly (MSc Candidate. University of Western Ontario)
Title: Stable isotope analysis of migratory distance and its relationship to immune allocation in song sparrows Melospiza melodia
Supervisors: Elizabeth MacDougall-Shackleton and Scott MacDougall-Shackleton
Pathogens exert strong selective pressures on hosts; thus trade-offs between immunity and other aspects of life-history are crucial. Life-history theory predicts that animals will experience particular immune challenges while performing strenuous exercise, such as migratory flight. We would predict that long migratory flights create a "lose-lose" scenario where, as travel distance increases, there is an increasing energetic cost while at the same time there is an increased encounter rate of foreign pathogens and parasites. I hope to better understand how these long-distance migrants balance these two competing costs.
I will examine intraspecific variation in migratory distance in a well-studied song sparrow population using stable isotope analysis. These estimated distances will be compared to diverse aspects of the immune response using a diversity of techniques. Song sparrows provide an ideal system in which to examine this relationship as they are a partial migrant species where some, but not all, individuals complete a seasonal migration. Additionally, those that do migrate vary greatly in the distance which they travel. My primary objective is to determine whether birds strategically invest energy in one aspect of the immune system over the other in relation to their migratory strategy to optimize life-history decisions and energy allocation.
Heather MacGillivray (Msc candidate, University of Western Ontario)
Title: An investigation of the relationship between philopatry, parasite load, and immune function in song sparrows (Melospiza melodia)
Supervisor: Dr. Beth MacDougall-Shackleton
Parasites comprise many of the known species in the world and they can have significant effects on the health and reproductive success of their hosts. Theory suggests that locally good genes may allow an individual to resist parasites with which they are familiar. This may in turn be an isolating mechanism that can cause populations to genetically diverge.
In a song sparrow population in southern Ontario, I will be determining whether birds are of local natal origin and relate that to measures of parasite load and immunological capacity. Using multiple measures of immunity and parasite counts, I intend to determine whether local individuals carry more parasites than non-local birds, and also to test whether local birds have inherently greater or lesser immunocompetence than their non-local counterparts. This may provide evidence of a mechanism by which speciation occurs.