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Principal Investigator

Jill Jankowski, Ph.D.  CV

Graduate Students

Karina Torres, PhD student

Rory Macklin, MSc student

Santiago David Rivera, PhD candidate


My major interest is the study of avian life history traits and species distributions in a community context using physiological, ecological and evolutionary approaches. For my PhD, I’m studying bird communities in a rather poorly known Neotropical high elevation ecosystem, the “Páramo”. I am focusing on the biogeographic history of Páramo bird communities, the physiological adaptations that allow Páramo birds to tolerate extreme environmental conditions and the relative importance of species interactions in constraining Páramo species to the tops of mountains. 

Jenny Muñoz Zapata, PhD candidate
email: jmunoz[at]zoology.ubc.ca

My research is focused on the ecology and evolution of positive interactions in communities. For my PhD, I am interested in understanding the importance of facilitation as a mechanism that structures tropical bird communities, using mixed-species flocks as a study system. I study how participation in mixed-species flocks can influence life history traits and fitness in birds and the potential costs of social living due to increased rates of parasitism. Furthermore, I use a phylogenetic approach to study the evolution of sociality in birds. I believe that the incorporation of facilitative interactions as a mechanism structuring communities has the potential to reform our understanding of diversity.

Mannfred Boehm, PhD candidate

I am primarily a botanist, but have been corrupted by my fellow ornithologists in the Jankowski Lab. I am studying the intersection of ecology, evolution, and natural history as it relates to bird-plant interactions. I'm currently working on the evolution of curvature in Centropogon (Campanulaceae) and Sicklebill hummingbirds (Eutoxeres, Phaethornithinae), and anthocyanin biosynthesis through the evolution of bird pollination in Canary Island Lotus (Fabaceae). I am co-supervised by Quentin Cronk in the Department of Botany at UBC.

Undergraduate Students 

Research Assistants and Lab Technicians

Judy Wu,
BSc (Directed studies)

I am interested in feather structures and the potential role they play in thermoregulation. For my directed studies project, I analyzed feather samples from the Mionectes flycatcher group to determine whether structural changes occur along an elevational gradient.

Former Students and Postdocs

Billi Krochuk, MSc

(Graduated September 2022) I am passionate about African birdlife and the landscapes they occupy. I am particularly interested in how holistic landscape investigations can better inform our understanding of avian community dynamics and patterns of individual movement. I am also interested in the evolution of conservation in Africa and how traditional ecological knowledge and community-based management are transforming the field. For my MSc, I investigated aspects of taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic avian diversity along elevational gradients in Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
Geoffrey Lau (Honours, NSERC USRA)

(Graduted April 2021) I am interested in evolutionary ecology and how coevolution plays out in different relationships. For my thesis project, I examined the relationship between tropical bird host body size and parasite abundance and community structure. Using data sets on host size and parasite abundance, I examinined the theory of Island Biogeography as applied to bird hosts as islands for my Honour's thesis.  After graduation, I started my program at the UBC medical school!

Sarah Blake

My research interests revolve around factors that influence avian nesting success and development, particularly in relation to bacteria and fungi in the nest environment. Across different habitat types, I explored how nest structure and composition affect hatching and fledging success as a result of the microbial communities chicks are exposed to. I am particularly fascinated by how colour and iridescence of nest lining feathers affects their decomposition by microbes and how this may provide the ability to manipulate the microbial community in nests. Overall nest shape and structure and the use of plant materials with antimicrobial properties will also be explored for their effect on nesting success. The aim of this research is to understand better how avian conservation can be improved when the importance of microbes in avian development is taken into consideration. 

Dr. Micah Scholer


(Graduated May 2020) My research draws upon natural history and demographic modeling to understand the abiotic and biotic drivers of survival rates in Neotropical birds and to explore how tropical species respond to a warming climate. I am also interested in how patterns of molt and plumage can be applied to create species-specific aging criteria that can be incorporated into models of demographic processes. I use a variety of approaches to investigate these questions, including occupancy, mark-recapture, and spatial models using data from long-term bird banding projects. Find out more here: https://micahscholer.wixsite.com/avianecology

Macgregor Aubertin-Young, BSc (


(Graduated May 2019) I studied the diversity of hummingbird flower mites and patterns of co-occurrence between particular hummingbird and mite species. These mites live their lives in flowers and disperse by mounting the bill of a visiting hummingbird. I tested whether flower mite species are specific to particular hummingbird bill morphologies and identified new species. My Honours thesis was supervised by Quentin Cronk, but I worked in the Jankowski lab and had their support through ideas and equipment.

Laura Dyck-Chan, BSc (Honours)

(Graduated May 2017) I'm interested in hummingbirds and the flowering plants they use in their habitats. For my Honour's thesis, I examined pollen collected from bills of hermit hummingbirds occurring in the lowlands and foothills of Manu National Park to describe their dietary composition. I used these data to test whether species that have overlapping ranges partition their use of flowering-plant resources.

Andrew Cook, MSc

(Graduated 2016) After finishing his Master's thesis on co-evoluationary relationships between Mionectes flycathers and Myrsidea ectoparasitic chewing lice, Andrew is now working on his Ph.D. with Dr. Heather Proctor at the University of Alberta, where he continues to study cophylogenetic host-ectosymbiont relationships.   https://hproctorlabuofa.blog/andrew-cook/

Dr. Lucas Pavan

(Graduated December 2014) For his Honor's thesis, Lucas studied patterns of territory space utilization in the Shining Sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis), a species of hummingbird found in high elevations of Manu National Park, Peru, which largely feeds from the flowering tree Oreocalis grandiflora, regionally. He described how individual hummingbirds use space and different habitats within their territories, as it relates to resource acquisition and mitigating environmental stress. Lucas recently finished his Ph.D. at Stanford University with Rodolfo Dirzo, studying avian community responses to mammal declines in African forests. http://dirzolab.stanford.edu/author/lpavan/

Beth MacDonald, MSc

(Graduated May 2012, co-advised w/ Kathy Martin) For her Master's thesis, Beth studied the incubation behaviors of Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) living in the Alpine environments of British Columbia. She examined the effects of variable thermal environments and extreme weather events on the decisions made by incubating adults to leave the nest.

Dr. J. Patrick Kelley

A former post-doc in our lab, Patrick examined organism-environment interactions across ecological gradients to understand how behavior and physiology shape natural selection and demography. These investigations are built upon quantitative natural history data and the quantification of climatic variation and biotic pressures using a variety of statistical approaches (nonlinear modeling, occupancy models, spatial analysis). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/J_Patrick_Kelley

Torin Heavyside, BSc

(Graduated 2014) For his project, Torin examined the stress hormone, Corticosterone, in birds across elevations in Manu National Park. He used Cort levels as an indicator of environmental stress that individuals experience, to ask whether levels change with the proximity of individuals to the edge of their range.