Do you want to work on animal movement and physiology? I'm looking for motivated undergraduates and incoming Master's students. Master's project can focus on any aspects of animal movement and physiology, but I'm especially interested in students who will work on one of the following projects
Undergraduate Projects Summer 2021
1) Heart rate variability in tent-making bats
Bats show extreme changes in heart rate, moving from resting rates of 100 beats per minutes to over 900 beats per minute in flight. They also slow their hearts to 10 - 50 beats per minute while in low-energy states like torpor. Tent-making bats (Uroderma bilobatum) in Panama show unusual low cycles of heart rate that seem to offset their high-energy lifestyle. But it's still not clear what these low energy states really are.
Students will be looking more closely at the nervous control of tent-making bat heart rate and energy state by examining the variability in these rates around large changes in metabolic demands (think resting to flying). We'll use heart rate variability as a measure since it generally increases when animals go into torpor or hibernation. Heart rate variability in humans is also linked to a variety of cardiac disease, with psychological and physiological stress having an out-sized effect on disrupting regular heart rhythms.
Pay is currently set at $10 / hour, with students working 40 hours per week for 10 weeks. Please apply ASAP. If you are interested, please email me from your Southeastern account and include your unofficial transcript, the name of one Southeastern faculty member who would be willing to chat briefly about you, and a short statement about why you'd like to do this. Example reasons about why you'd like this job might be: getting research experience, you need a job on / near campus, you want to go to med school and are really interested in hearts, you want to learn more about data in biology.
This is mostly a data exploration and analysis project that will be done using R to develop student computational and data analysis skills. There is no need to have any prior computer coding experience though. There will be other additional research opportunities in the lab over the summer, but this project is what would pay you.
Graduate Projects Fall 2021
1) Spatial ecology of greater noctule bats in Doñana, Spain
Greater noctule bats (Nyctalus lasiopterus) are the largest bats in Europe and occasionally feed on birds that migrate at night. While we know which bird species they feed on, we don't know how they manage this amazing behavior. Beyond this, we don't know much about the ecology bats use the landscape (but do know a little about group formation). We fit bats with biologging tags that recorded high resolution GPS (1 fix every 30 s), 3D accelerometers (100 fixes per s), and air pressure sensors (1 fix per s), to track where bats flew in 3D space, the landscape features that they use, and the mechanics and energy expenditure of prey capture. These data have already been collected, so no additional field work is planned -- but we can build local field work into your Master's education. A Master's student would focus on analyzing the GPS data and building research questions that explore how these bats use the underlying landscape. These results will be tied back to the accelerometry data to understand more about the mechanics and energetics of foraging in this species. This is a data analysis heavy project, but offers the advantage of having data ready to go and will be part of an international, multidisciplinary team of researchers.
2) Migration of Mexican free-tailed bats
Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are one of the most common bats in the southern US, Mexico, and Central America where they shown a mix of residency and seasonal migration. They're especially known for their large maternity colonies where thousands to millions of bats migrate to the same caves or bridges each year. However, it seems like this migratory behavior is starting to disappear, with more and more bats spending their winters in locations in Texas. While we are not sure if the bats that over-winter in these caves are the same that use it as a maternity colony, the loss of migration can have wide-ranging effects on individual physiology, disease burden, and immunocompetence. This project will begin to assess the residency patterns of these over-wintering sites in Texas and Louisiana (maybe into Mexico), as well as how over-wintering in a maternity potentially impacts various aspects of their physiology and energy expenditure. This project will combine field sampling for stable isotopes, immunology, physiology, and energetic parameters, with computational models designed to test broad effects of various migration strategies.
In general, I'm looking for students who are willing to jump into a project and work with me to design interesting research questions and testable hypotheses. All of the analysis for these projects will be completed in open-source, documented, and reproducible software (e.g., R, QGIS). Applicants don't need experience in data analysis or GIS, but they do need to be willing to learn how to code to make their data analysis successful and shareable.
To apply for Master's work at Southeastern Louisiana University, please check out the description of our graduate degree program and in particular read the application guidelines and get in touch with me to discuss your interests. Your email to me should include your CV, unofficial undergraduate transcripts, a brief description of why you want to go to graduate school, and how you think working in the Integrative Movement lab fits with your goals. The deadline is February 1.