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Current Students

Alejandro Buren - My research interests revolve around the understanding of the processes and mechanisms that structure and regulate natural communities. I am particularly interested in putting this knowledge to work for practical purposes, e.g. sustainable use of natural resources and conservation. My research involves evaluating the role of top predators in marine systems such as marine mammals, seabirds and large fish. I received a Licentiate in Biology degree from the University of Patagonia, where I studied the effects of fisheries using a large skate as a biological indicator of changes in the community. While in Patagonia, I also collaborated in projects devoted to the behavior and population dynamics of small cetaceans and sea lions. In 2005 I started my MSc at Memorial University, under the supervision of Drs. Montevecchi and Koen-Alonso. My MSc thesis explored the relationship between prey availability and diet, using the common murre-capelin interaction as a case study. In 2007 I entered the PhD program in CABE, and my current research is trying to elucidate the potential effects that harp seals may have on the non-recovery of the cod stocks off Newfoundland, a topic as controversial as open to scrutiny. My PhD work involves developing trophodynamic models that puzzle together fisheries, capelin, cod and harp seals, three key species in the Newfoundland marine community.

Name: Elysia Dutton
Supervisors: Dr. Rita Anderson & Dr. Carolyn Walsh
About me: I come from a small New Hampshire town where I was always exposed to animals and developed a passion and respect for them. When in NH I live with my eight, yes eight, cats and one dog. They always surprise me and their behaviour fascinates me, which is why I chose to focus my graduate research on domestic dogs. My undergraduate research focused on human mating strategies and preferences.
Current research: My current research focuses on how the familiarity of conspecific dyads affects communication during play in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). In other words, I want to know if how well two dogs know each other will affect their communication during play. To do this, I videotaped dogs at the Quidi Vidi Dog Park in St. John’s during the summer of 2009. I am currently watching the videotapes and coding behaviours to extract raw data that can be analyzed.
Why CABE: Coming from a psychology background I wanted a more interdisciplinary and biology based understanding of behaviour. The CABE program has provided me just that and making me feel more prepared to pursue a PhD degree elsewhere. The small nature of this program is another reason why CABE is awesome. It is small enough that everyone knows one another and works together, yet large enough that there is diversity among the research going on. It really is a CABE family!

Name: Becky Graham
Supervisor: Dr. Ian Fleming
About me: I'm originally from New Brunswick, and have spent the last few years living in Fredericton. After my undergrad degree at University of New Brunswick, I worked for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for a couple of years before deciding to pursue my Masters degree. On a less fishy note, I enjoy sports, coffee, and my dog, Steve.
Current research: I am studying the reproductive ecology of Atlantic salmon in the context of population restoration. Using underwater footage, behavioural observations, and genetic analysis of offspring I am comparing the behaviour and reproductive success of adult fish in a semi-natural environment with varying levels of domestication. In addition, I am studying the effect of precocious juveniles on the spawning success of captive adults.
Why CABE? : I happily found my way to CABE as it is a good fit for the type of applicable research that I'm most interested in pursuing.

Education: B.A. (Psychology) Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec. Currently, I am a second year M.Sc. student in the Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology Programme (CABE).
Supervisors: Dr. Carolyn Walsh & Dr. Rita Anderson
Current research: Presently my M.Sc. thesis research includes studying behavioural patterns and interaction ‘styles’ of domestic dogs. Despite the popularity of dogs within human society, scientific research (especially current research) on what comprises dog behaviour and communication has remained relatively sparse. Although recently a body of research pertaining to dog-human interactions has begun to expand, the nature of social behaviours exchanged between dogs has been slower to advance. My objective is to help contribute to empirical data on the social behaviours exchanged between dogs at a public dog park. I hope to be able to provide evidence that either helps to validate or dispute explanations of dog-dog interactions (especially those related to ‘dominance’) as commonly described by popular literature, dog trainers and enthusiasts.
Why CABE?: Enrolling in the CABE Programme at MUN was an effortless decision to make. Not only did this program give me an opportunity to return to academic study in one of the most scenically rich areas of Canada (forgive my biases as I’m also from NL!), the interdisciplinary nature of the program offered a well rounded way to approach the study of animal behaviour. To me, finding a program that included faculty members with diverse research backgrounds and scientific perspectives was essential and in this regard it was clear that the CABE Programme at MUN was set apart from other M.Sc. programs across Canada.

Name: Craig Knickle
Supervisor: Dr. George Rose
About me: I am originally from Nova Scotia but grew up in Prince Edward Island where my interest in marine life was fostered. I have spent time on fishing and research vessels in different parts of the world including Alaska, Florida, Newfoundland's Grand Banks and the Indian Ocean. I am particularly interested in the behavioural ecology of commercially exploited marine fishes.
Current research: My current research focuses on fine-scale behavioural patterns of juvenile gadids in coastal Newfoundland. Future research plans include examining the phenomenon of partial migration in coastal cod (Gadus morhua).

Name: Amy-Lee Kouwenberg
Supervisor: Dr. Anne Storey and Dr. Mark Hipfner
About me: My interest in animals began while growing up on a hog/cattle farm near the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Helping with chores on the farm, raising livestock for 4-H club shows, and spending endless hours rambling through woods and beaches along the Northumberland Strait allowed me to observe and interact with animals ranging from chickens to bears. My interest in domestic animals led me to do my B.Sc. in Agricultural Science at the University of Guelph, where I completed an honors thesis examining how different lighting conditions in pig pens affect pigs’ willingness to move through dark, brightly lit and shadowy corridors. During my undergrad, I participated in research projects involving everything from counting worms in manure piles to tracking spider monkeys in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. For my M.Sc., I decided to make use of my trusty pig-wrangling skills and delve into the more cognitive side of pig behaviour, specifically memory. Through this project, my supervisors and I found evidence that pigs are capable of remembering what/where/which details of an event (“episodic-like” memory). During my M.Sc., I also became fascinated with the seabird research happening at MUN, and began volunteering as a field assistant for fellow CABE students studying fish, marine invertebrates and birds.
Current research: For my Ph.D., I am studying Atlantic Puffins at two colonies off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Rhinocerous Auklets at several colonies off the coast of British Columbia. I am using stable isotope and hormone analysis to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of each of these species during their off-shore, non-nesting seasons.
Why CABE?: Initially, my interdisciplinary background and my interests both domestic and wild animal behaviour led me to the CABE programme for my M.Sc. Subsequently, the excellent guidance and support provided by CABE professors, the tight-knit and collaborative atmosphere enjoyed by CABE students, and the world-class seabird research being done within the CABE program led me to stay for my Ph.D.


Name: Laura McFarlane Tranquilla
Supervisor : W.A. Montevecchi
About me: I have recently returned to Atlantic Canada (hometown Holtville, New Brunswick – near Fredericton) after several years living in British Columbia. Many of my best adventures have happened while doing biology, and I love the challenge of fieldwork and the opportunity to camp in wild places and to observe and handle wildlife. My other best adventures have happened with my lovely husband and two sweet kids.
Current research: I am studying winter ecology of Common Murres and Thick-billed Murres from Arctic and Eastern Canada. I map year-round at-sea locations using data collected using small archival tags, attached to birds at 7 breeding colonies throughout the high and low Arctic. This involves the cooperation of several researchers (at Memorial University, Carleton University, and Environment Canada), who collaborate on field work and data collection.
Why CABE?: CABE provides a great environment for cross-disciplinary research and collaboration, which I think is crucial in our current science environment. The students in this program have a diversity of interests, which makes for some great conversations. But ultimately, I chose CABE to take advantage of the depth of experience and fantastic support of the Montevecchi Lab; and for the chance to live in beautiful Newfoundland.


Name: Lauren Rae
Supervisor: Dr. Ian Warkentin
About me: I was drawn east to Newfoundland from Dundas, Ontario to pursue graduate work that would combine my background in environmental biology and an interest in avian behavioural ecology. I completed my honours research at the University of Guelph, which involved using ultrasonic imaging and isotope dilution to affirm the key assumption in radio telemetry research that transmitters have no effect on the body condition of individuals carrying them.
Current research: My master’s project involves determining the effects of moose over-browsing in Gros Morne National Park (GMNP), Newfoundland. In addition to asking this applied question of interest to GMNP, my research will examine how the extent of local habitat loss may influence forest bird communities at a broader scale, and explore the potential presence of a threshold effect in habitat loss attributable to moose over-browsing beyond which bird populations decline abruptly.
Why CABE? To me, an ideal graduate program caters to the students’ interests while providing a solid education in a broader area of concentration. The CABE program does this through specialized graduate courses and also by offering a diverse and supportive network of approachable faculty and grad students.


Name: Paul Regular
Supervisor: William Montevecchi and Gregory Robertson
About: I grew up in the town of Hampden, Newfoundland, where my fascination with Newfoundland wildlife began. I spent much of my time outside observing local birds, fish and mammals, educating myself about their behaviour and interactions – it was, and still is, my hobby.
Current research: My current research focuses on the foraging ecology of breeding Common Murres. I am specifically interested the foraging strategies parental common murres use to raise chicks while they are challenged by various biological and physical constraints. I conduct my research from a large offshore colony (Funk Island, Funk Island Ecological Reserve) and a small inshore colony (Gull Island, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve). At both colonies I have attached bird-born activity recorders as a means to study how they adjust their foraging behaviour under varied environmental conditions.
Why CABE? : I have always had a special interest in ecology and animal behaviour, and the CABE program encourages the integration of these fields – this is one of the reasons I think CABE is awesome!

Name:  Morag Ryan
Supervisors:  Dr. Carolyn Walsh (supervisor) and Dr. Anne Storey (co-supervisor)
About me: I am a native Newfoundlander, born and raised in St. John's, save for 2 years that I spent living in Toronto, Ontario. I was raised under the philosophy that a house is not a home unless a pet lives there and I can honestly say I have never been pet-less! As a child, I was always fascinated by non-human animals and nature in general. I was captivated by documentaries and it was common for me to turn off Sesame Street to watch David Attenborough on the Discovery Channel. I can alsMorag and Newfoundland dogo say, proudly, that I was the only child capable of naming all of the animals on the rainforest poster, including tapirs, in the second grade. Needless to say I think I was destined to study animal behaviour! I received my B.Sc. (hons.) from MUN as well, with a major in Psychology and a minor in Biology, and my honours work focused on the Common Murre's (Uria aalge) parenting strategies in relation to parental body condition and prey (capelin, Mallotus villosus) availability. Currently, I am investigating the nature of the human-dog bond, particularly the behaviours and hormones that might be involved (oxytocin and cortisol). Additionally, I plan to analyze whether dog personality variables and owner's prior pet ownership or parenting experience influences this relationship, in the context of the "Strange Situation" and general positive interactions between owner-dog pairs.
Why CABE:  During my B.Sc. I was thrilled to find out that there was a graduate program in Behavioural Ecology, and it seemed like a perfect transition from my honours work. CABE offers its students with a comfortable environment to learn and grow as a researcher, while still providing the necessary building blocks of Behavioural Ecology with course work. The diversity in research within the program is overwhelming and there are opportunities for both vertebrate and invertebrate work. Many CABE supervisors have interdisciplinary collaborations, which enables students to get field and laboratory experience. Therefore, CABE felt like a natural choice for me and I certainly do not regret entering the program!

Name: Linda Takahashi
Supervisor: Anne Storey and Carolyn Walsh
About me: Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia. I’m broadly interested in behavioural ecology, conservation and birds. Some recent field research experience include monitoring the reproductive success of Masked Boobies on a remote island in the Northwestern Hawai’i an Islands, radio-tracking and re-sighting colour banded Palila on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i and monitoring mosquitoes in Vancouver.
Current research: I am investigating parental care behaviour of Common Murres (Uria aalge) on Gull Island and Great Island in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland. Using marked pairs of birds within the breeding colony, I am examining individual differences in behaviour during the time a pair spends together at the nest (co-attendance). These interactions may be a way in which individuals communicate to each other about their condition, intentions and to negotiate self-interest conflicts.
Why CABE?: I came to Memorial University so I could experience a real Canadian winter! Honestly, the CABE program is great because I am surrounded by faculty and graduate students who are interested in behavioural ecology, conservation and seabirds.


Name: Emily Wilson
Supervisor: Dr. William Montevecchi
About me: A native Vermonter, science has been my favorite subject since second grade. I completed my Bachelor's in Biology and Anthropology in Maine at Colby College -- and the summer after graduation I fell hard for seabirds after working with terns and puffins on Petit Manan Island in the Gulf of Maine. The field season after that I volunteered with the University of Washington Penguin Project in Punta Tumbo, Argentina where I fell in love with Turbo, the penguin who loves people.
Current research: My current research is on seabird habitat use in the Gulf of Maine as a part of the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe). I will be using data concerning seabird distribution, densities and diversity collected on research cruises in the Gulf of Maine. This will be related to ecological and oceanographic habitat features and also will allow decadal comparisons to seabird data collected in the 1970s and 80s. I also hope to integrate satellite telemetry for fine scale tracking of residency within areas of the Gulf of Maine. The information found can be used to create habitat maps to predict the best zones for Marine Important Areas.
Why CABE?: I'm very happy to have found the CABE department at Memorial! It's not only great to be working in an interdisciplinary department focused on the behaviour of animals, but there are many others within the department who also study seabirds, with a healthy dose of passerines, fish and mammals too.
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