Although he hadn't seen the world, Taylor had seen enough to know what he wanted to do with his life. "I've always been interested in biology," he recalls. "It started when I was growing up, but I really figured it out in high school.
Born and raised in a small town on the shores of Lake Huron, Taylor grew up surrounded by wildlife. That led him to the University of Guelph for his undergrad work in wildlife biology. "I guess I went to Guelph thinking I'd go into veterinary medicine, like so many other people do," he said. "But when I was there, I discovered that I really like research more."
While he had been studying threatened toads at Guelph, by the time he was ready to pursue graduate work, Taylor had a different course of study in mind. "I wanted to study evolutionary genetics and speciation," he says.
Taylor applied to graduate programs across the country, eventually choosing Queen's. "It was between a couple of schools," he says. "There were a few labs that I felt I could integrate well with. Queen's was one of them, but I didn't make the decision until I had visited the campus. That's what convinced me that it was a good match."
"I really enjoy living in Kingston," Taylor continues. "I grew up in a small town with a population of 200, so Kingston was a bit of an adjustment, but it's right on the lake, like my hometown, so I felt right at home."
After transferring from the Master's program by way of a mini Master's, Taylor began work on his doctorate in 2008. He's studying the divergence of species using tropical seabirds along the Pacific coasts of Mexico and South America. "The Humboldt Current, which goes from central Chile all the way up to northern Peru, produces a really rich environment, and one that may be generating biodiversity in seabirds" he explains. "There are a number of really interesting species to study in the region."
Two of those species are the Peruvian Booby and the Blue-Footed Booby. The two are similar in appearance, except for the fact that the Blue-Footed Booby has bright blue feet. "The ranges of the two species overlap in northern Peru," Taylor says, "but they don't hybridize widely, and it's not clear why. There's no obvious physical barrier to their movement. They can fly thousands of kilometres in a day. So we're using molecular tools to reconstruct their evolutionary history and examine contemporary population differentiation and hybridization to help us gain a better understanding of how the region may be generating seabird biodiversity." To help improve his understanding and collect samples, Taylor spent a month on the Guano Islands, a series of desert islands along the coast of Peru, and he also spent time on a few islands off the coast of Chile collecting blood samples. "It was an incredible experience," he says. "I've certainly seen things I never would have seen otherwise."
Once his doctoral work is finished, Taylor plans to travel some more. His next stop is Vancouver, where he'll continue his studies with post-doctoral work at the University of British Columbia. "There are a couple of labs that are doing interesting work there," he says. "I feel like the options are almost endless."Back To All Stories