Blog

And so it begins

Posted by Brian on March 14, 2018 at 1:20 AM

Hi everybody! I’m doing the same thing as last year, attempting to blog my experiences in the field at least once a week to keep in touch (and show that I’m still alive). This year, the first task on the agenda is to start (and finish) the inland transect in northern California along Bigfoot Highway. Now that the coastal transect is mapped out, it will be interesting to see whether selection acts in similar ways on the system inland as it does along the coast. After that, I will probably head north to Florence, OR for a week or so to see if any Allen’s-like characters/genes have poured into the range of Rufous Hummingbird, outside the hybrid zone…this is called introgression.


So, what is selection, and why it selection matter? Natural selection is a process in which species adapt to their environment based on their fitness, which is the ability to survive and reproduce, and contribute to the gene pool of future generations. When individuals with certain characteristics have greater fitness than other individuals in the population, they will tend to be most successful at passing on their genes over time, leading to evolutionary change. Selection allows us to understand how species evolve and adapt in the natural world.


I spent the day driving from San Diego to Davis, CA, where I am staying with collaborator Lisa Tell, who is a veterinarian working on hummingbirds. When I take blood samples, I usually take an extra blood sample for her, and she looks for hemoparasites, which are types of parasites living in the blood. She also does a lot of other interesting work on hummingbirds; for example, she just finished studying how different types of water (tap water versus deionized water) affect the bacteria found in sugar water at hummingbird feeders, and found that iron in tap water might contribute to bacterial growth, and promote an increase in the types of bacteria found in the water. Not too many people like talking about hummingbird research for hours on end, so it’s always fun to catch up with her!


Something I’m definitely excited about this year is a collaboration with photographer Keith Morey, who is going to help me try and capture high quality photos and videos of the hummingbird courtship displays that I’m studying. If you check the “videos” page here, I’ve shared some lower quality displays I’ve captured as well as some videos of how I capture my birds in the first place!

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