Field Work at the Southwestern Research Station!!

The Powers Lab just wrapped up the 2017 field season at the Southwestern Research Station (SWRS) in the Chiricahua Mountains, SE Arizona.  We were joined this year by Anusha Shankar, who along with research student Isabelle Cisneros, tackled the difficult task of tracking overnight changes in hummingbird body temperature.  Our primary goal in this study was to see if hummingbirds use regulated shallow torpor (hypothermia) as an alternative to deep torpor at night.  The protocol called for the birds to be outside (natural light and temperature cycles) in an open container that would allow them to just leave when they woke up in the morning.   Ultimately we got some great data, but both Anusha and Isabelle the days continually modifying the chambers reducing the large plexiglas box that was originally designed to a small cubical that would place the bird in good filming position.  In the end we got some great data, including one bird that appears to have used regulated shallow torpor!

Research student Kaheela Reid was also with us in Arizona to do experiments measuring the influence of evaporative heat dissipation on resting metabolic rate in hummingbirds.  We ended up have significant system design issues that prevented us from getting any good data, but we will work on this back in the lab and perhaps try again next year.

We are not back in the lab crunching number and preparing for the many we will be doing in the coming months!

Don going over things with Kaheela (photo by Antonella Wilby).

Don giving a seminar at SWRS.

Girls just wanna have fun!

Isabelle and Anusha getting ready to collect data!

Isabelle and Anusha working on data.

Enjoying some fine dinning on a trip to town.

Final iteration of the torpor chamber.

Kaheela feeding a blue-throated hummingbird (photo by Antonella Wilby).

Kaheela releasing a hummingbird.

Anusha showing Kaheela how to hold a hummingbird.

Anusha demonstrating use of the traps to Isabelle.

Black-chinned Hummingbird (photo by Antonella Wilby)

Early iterations of the torpor chambers.

Kaheela working on the open-flow metabolism system.

Isabelle and Anusha making the lab dark for torpor measurements.

Kaheela adjusting the IR camera.

Anusha working on the torpor chambers.

Lab building at SWRS.

Isabelle and Kaheela setting up our feeders at SWRS.

 

Hummingbird Heat Budget Studies – University of Montana

Just returned from Dr. Bret Tobalske’s lab at the University of Montana.  This was our first trip into the field this year.  Along with research student Emma Bloomquist we collected infrared thermography, hovering metabolic rate, evaporative water loss, and particle image velocimetry data at both high and low temperature.  We will use these data to determine 1) if hummingbirds can compensate for the loss of passive heat dissipation with evaporative heat dissipation at high temperatures during hovering, and 2) if hummingbirds can balance their heat budgets at high temperature during hovering.  We also collected data for a side project….study to see if hummingbirds can dissipate heat via their bill.  Now, on to analysis!

Bret and Emma getting ready to collect data.

Calliope hummingbird feeding at our experimental feeder.

Emma setting up the infrared camera.

Emma gathering hovering metabolic rate data.

Emma and Don getting the flight chamber ready.

Emma setting up the metabolism system.

On the Road in Switzerland!!

Dr. Powers took his show on the road and spend the month of March at WSL (a Swiss federal research institute) in Birmensdorf, Switzerland where collaborator Dr. Catherine Graham had recently moved from Stony Brook University in New York.  The purpose of the trip was to spend focused time working to get products from the NASA grant completed since the end of the project was only a few months away.  Also during this time Dr. Powers worked closely with Anusha Shankar, Dr. Graham’s Ph.D. student on completing manuscripts on hummingbird torpor and energy budgets that were funded by the grant.

Don at his desk at WSL.

Don's office building at WSL.

Up in the Alps! Mt. Titlis!

Classical concert in Zurich.

Day trip to Bern.

Bern!

Looking down on Zurich.

Research team dinner at Catherine's apartment.

Anusha and Don engaged in the festivities of old Zurich.

Looking down on old Zurich.

Don's flat in Zurich.

Sunset along Lake Zurich.

Countryside along Lake Zurich.

Discussing science on the boat to Rapperswill.

Don, Catherine, Marissa, and Anusha above Lake Geneva.

From the vineyards along Lake Geneva!

Three New Students Join the Powers Lab!!

The Powers Lab has three new research students for the coming year.  This has been our most challenging year for funding students requiring an unusual amount of creativity!  Emma Bloomquist, a junior biology major and member of the Honors Program at GFU was funded in the traditional way, through our Richter Scholar Program.  Emma will be headed to Dr. Bret Tobalske’s lab at the University of Montana to conduct experiments to determine if hummingbirds can sufficiently disputed heat via evaporative water loss to maintain heat balance during hovering.

Isabelle Cisneros, a junior biology major, had perhaps the most creative path to funding for the coming year raising her support via crowd sourcing on the Experiment.com platform. Probably the best thing about this effort and its success was that the majority of our backers were former Powers Lab research students!  This is a reaffirmation that the work we do in the lab makes a difference in student lives.  Isabelle will travel to the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona where she will use infrared thermography to determine if hummingbirds can use shallow torpor (hypothermia).  She will work closely with Anusha Shankar, a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University who has worked with our lab for several years on torpor studies.  For complete details on Isabelle’s project see our Experiment.com page!

The final student to join the lab is sophomore biology major Kaheela Reid.  Kaheela was funded this year by the GFU diversity program.  This is the first time the diversity program has invested funds in this sort of thing, and we look forward to a successful year so that the program will continue to consider this type of investment.  Kaheela will travel to Arizona along with Isabelle where her core project will be an investigation of how evaporative water loss influences resting metabolic rate in hummingbirds.

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Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Meeting!!

The Powers Lab once again ventured to the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting held this year in New Orleans January 4-8.  We had a good crew at the meeting consisting of Dr. Powers, current research students Elizah Stephens and Nathan Weston, former research students Sean Powers and Rosey Elting, and Anusha Shankar our collaborating Ph.D. student from Stony Brook University.  Dr. Powers gave an updated talk on hummingbird heat dissipation during hovering, Anusha gave a talk on modeling energy budgets in hummingbirds, and Sean gave a talk on lizards existing at the extreme limits of their range.  Elizah presented a poster on microbial contamination in hummingbird feeders, Nathan gave a poster on the contribution of feeders to the daily energy budget in hummingbirds, and Sean presented a poster on physiological regulation of head dissipation in hummingbirds.  Dr. Powers also co-authored a presentation given by Derrick Groom, a graduate student in Dr. Ken Welch’s lab, on hummingbird wing allometry.  Powers Lab research was well represented at SICB!

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