My last stop before I returned home was UC Riverside where I stayed with Helen Regan and her husband Kurt Anderson and visited their labs. Of course, due to the time of year most of the academics were away but I was able to meet with many of their fantastic students.
Helen is the sister of one of the academics in my lab, Tracy which gave me an in to contact her. Unrelatedly, I’ve been curious to meet her for a while because one of her publications (Regan, H.M., Colyvan, M. & Burgman, M. (2002). A taxonomy and treatment of uncertainty for ecology and conservation biology. Ecological Applications, 12, 618–628) has been really influential in formulating my work on inconsistent use of terms. Obviously that work was done a while ago and she has largely moved on from there – her work now focuses on more applied questions relating to quantitative conservation, risk assessment and decision science.
Kurt researches a variety of things including community dynamics (where he works on terrestrial, aquatic, microbial and theoretical communities), plant defences (where he works with field and simulated data) and environmental change in California.
Pamela studies population viability analyses. A number of different methods of PVA are commonly used but it is unclear whether any of these are better or worse than others. She works with simulated data to determine whether matrix or scalar models give better approximations of the actual (as simulated) population dynamics.
Sara works on metapopulation dynamics of birds but has also been conducting a meta-analysis about how species interactions change based on climate change. I think she will have a pretty diverse PhD
Sean is studying how system stability relates to network structure. Like me, he has had trouble with terminology – stability is probably one of the worst defined terms in the field. For the purposes of his work, he considers a stable community to be one that does not go extinct. He works in simulated and real world (well- a whole lot of bottles connected by tubes with two bacteria in them) space to work out what kind of network of ‘patches’ of habitat is able to sustain a two species predator/prey system.
Katie studies hummingbird song – they evolved song separately from passerine birds and very little is known about how their song develops. She’s experimenting with playing fledglings different calls as they are developing and seeing how this affects their song. She’s also found that the terms used to describe different aspects of bird song (‘phrase’, ‘sound’, noise’ are not always used consistently which is interesting.
Daniel is a masters student and currently studies sexual selection in guppies but is interested in coming to Australia to work with fairy wrens. His dream is to work in a system where understanding breeding selection and behaviour can be linked with conservation outcomes. I think he’s unlikely to find a space for this with wrens because they’re hardy little guys but their behaviour is very interesting a complex so they might be worth studying anyway.
Sean also studies hummingbirds and is particularly interested in studying determinants of hummingbird ‘quality’. He’s a bit like a hummingbird personal trainer: setting them tasks like navigating a string maze, weight lifting and flying in a wind tunnel to test their strength, agility and endurance.