Projects · Dr. Steffi LaZerte

Projects

feedr and animalnexus.ca (2015-2017)

Dr. David J. Hill, Thompson Rivers University
Dr. Ken Otter, University of Northern British Columbia
Dr. Matt Reudink, Thompson Rivers University
Website: http://animalnexus.ca
github page: http://github.com/animalnexus/feedr

Developing citizen science tools, in particular an open system for the web-based visualization and analysis of animal movement data. I developing a suite of R functions into a package (feedr) for the transformation of RFID read data into various biologically relevant datasets. I also developed a web-based platform (animalnexus.ca) integrated into the package to allow easy use of feedr functionality as well as access to real time movement data collected from bird feeders on TRU Campus.

White-throated sparrow song variation (2015-2017)

Dr. Ken A. Otter, University of Northern British Columbia
Dr. Scott Ramsay, Wilfrid Laurier University
Website: http://whitethroatsong.ca

This is a citizen science project designed to collect data on song variation in white-throated sparrows across North America over time and space. Here I have been involved with the study organization, website setup, and recruitment.

Effects of urbanization and noise on chickadees (2010-2015)

Dr. Ken A. Otter, University of Northern British Columbia
Dr. Hans Slabbekoorn, Leiden University
PhD Dissertation: Sounds of the city: The effects of urbanization and noise on mountain and black-capped chickadee communication

Bird song transmission (how song travels through space) is influenced by song characteristics and habitat acoustics. Acoustics are influenced by ambient noise and physical structures. Because song plays important role in avian reproduction, song transmission should be optimized for the local habitat. However, urbanization often results in increased noise and structural changes. Some birds compensate for these changes by adjusting their songs (vocal adjustment) to transmit more efficiently (such as singing at higher frequencies to overcome low-frequency traffic noise), but adjustment may have hidden costs, and not all species may be able to do so. Unfortunately, we know little about which species are capable of adjustment, or why. Of the studies that have investigated vocal adjustment, most have examined it in response to urban noise; Few have looked at how birds adjust songs in response to changes in the physical structure of the environment, how they react to acute noise exposure, or how natural singing behaviour may influence the ability to vocally adjust.

Understanding how urbanization affects acoustics and communication will help conservationists evaluate which species are most vulnerable to urbanization, and may provide policy makers with solutions on how to minimize communication breakdown. The objectives of my dissertation were to examine and contrast how communication in black-capped and mountain chickadees was affected by urbanization. In particular:

  1. Do urban acoustics affect chickadee song transmission?
  2. Do chickadees adjust their songs to compensate for urban acoustics, and do differences in natural singing behaviour between the two species affect how they adjust their songs?
  3. Does adjustment improve song audibility in ambient noise?

Using thermosensitive telemetry to monitor activity in chipmunks (2007-2010)

Dr. Donald L. Kramer, McGill University
MSc Thesis: Using thermosensitive telemetry to measure activity in eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus)

Using temperature-senstive telemetry collars, I developed a protocol for assigning activity to eastern chipmunks depending on temperature profiles. From this I was able to determine detailed activity patterns of individuals above and below ground, during the summer lull, in two years with varying food levels and in the late summer/early fall period when individuals start to undergo torpor. I found that chipmunks do sleep more during the summer lull, their activity is highly depending on food availability, and they started torpor much earlier in the year with low food compared to the year with high food.

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