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Plenary Speakers

The program features talks by world-leading experts on exciting and diverse topics in Ornithology including four talks by leading scientists:


Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow (University of Alberta and Yukon College, Canada) - Landscape ecology, modeling and large scale conservation planning of boreal avifauna.

Plenary: An odyssey of boreal bird research and conservation in Canada

Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow is currently a professor at the University of Alberta, where she directs the Northern Environmental and Conservation Science Program. Based in the Yukon Territory, Canada, where the program is being delivered, Fiona has unique opportunities to experience some of the most pristine environments remaining in the northern hemisphere.  For the past 20 years, Fiona has been fascinated by boreal systems, with her initial passion sparked by boreal bird communities and their response to landscape change in more southern regions of Canada.  Her research into these questions is characterized by large-scale experimental field studies and complementary, collaborative modelling initiatives involving extensive datasets.  Increasingly, Dr. Schmiegelow's interests lie at the interface of science and policy, and she welcomes opportunities to engage in related processes to identify tractable solutions to pressing conservation challenges facing boreal systems and the species that depend on them.  In 2010, Dr. Schmiegelow published a co-authored a book with Malcolm L. Hunter Jr  entitled ‘Wildlife, Forests and Forestry: Principles of Managing Forests for Biological Diversity’ .

Plenary Session - Wednesday, 15 August


Dr. Irby Lovette (Cornell, USA) - Evolution of ecological and morphological diversity among birds.

Plenary: Historical perspectives on the evolution of warbler diversity, behavior, and ecology

Irby Lovette runs the Evolutionary Biology Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where he is an Associate Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His research centers on questions about the generation and maintenance of evolutionary diversity in avian systems across levels of biological organization that span genes to behavior. Using a combination of phylogenetic, comparative, and experimental methodologies, he explores temporal and geographic patterns of diversification and tests hypotheses about the historical processes that produce those patterns, and about their consequences for the present-day ecology, conservation, and behavior of birds and other organisms. His recent work has included projects on the radiation of wood-warblers, starlings and mockingbirds, and Australian skinks. Irby’s training included work with Dick Holmes (Dartmouth College) as an undergraduate, and with Bob Ricklefs (U. Pennsylvania) for his PhD.

Plenary Session - Thursday, 16 August



Dr. Roxanna Torres (UNAM, Mexico) - Parental investment, sexual selection and reproductive tactics of long-lived seabirds.

Plenary: Sexual selection from a life history perspective: Colour communication in a seabird.

Dr. Torres studied Biology at the Metropolitan University of Mexico, obtained a PhD in Ecology at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), and then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Simon Fraser University in Canada in collaboration with Dr. Fred Cook. Currently, Roxana is a full time researcher at the Institute of Ecology - UNAM. Her research interests focus on the evolutionary biology of breeding systems. Using seabirds as models, Roxana and collaborators have investigated various aspects of mate choice, sexual signalling, life history strategies and how they change as the individual ages. Her research uses a combination of field experiments as well as data from a long-term monitoring project on the breeding biology of a long-lived seabird, which allows her research group to link physiological parameters (e.g., oxidative status) with sexual signaling, mating preferences, breeding strategies and senescenc.

Plenary Session - Friday, 17 August

Dr. Peter Marra (Smithsonian, USA) - Evolutionary and conservation consequences of migratory connectivity and seasonal interactions in avian systems.

Plenary: Studying birds in the context of the annual cycle: Carry-over effects and seasonal interactions.

Pete Marra earned a Ph.D. from Dartmouth College in 1998 and has been a conservation scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s Conservation Biology Institute since 1999.  Pete’s research in avian conservation science has three broad themes: ecology of migratory birds, urban ecosystem ecology and disease ecology.  His primary interests lie in gaining a mechanistic understanding of the factors that control the persistence and dynamics of populations.  Pete takes an integrative and collaborative approach to his research by considering the roles of climate, habitat, food, pathogens, and physiology on the individual condition of both migratory and resident birds and their populations.  His research is both fundamental and applied, often incorporates novel tools such as stable isotopes, and emphasizes incorporating events throughout the annual cycle to understand how complex interactions across seasons drive the ecology and evolution of life history strategies.  All of his research is grounded in a solid understanding of the natural history of the organisms his group studies.  Communicating his science and his excitement for the conservation of wildlife to as wide an audience as possible, including the general public, is a high priority of his overall program.

Plenary Session - Saturday, 18 August.