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Watts Lab News

Two new papers led by Ben Vernasco

We have two new papers out on the migratory biology of pine siskins, both led by Ben Vernasco.

Vernasco, B. J. & Watts, H. E. 2022. Telomere length predicts timing and intensity of migratory behaviour in a nomadic songbird. Biology Letters 18: 20220176.

Vernasco, B. J., Cornelius, J. M. & Watts, H E. 2022. Social information use in migratory decision-making depends upon conspecific state. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 76: 130.

Recruiting graduate student for Fall 2021

MS/PhD position in Biology at Washington State University

Drs. Heather Watts and Dick Gomulkiewicz in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University are looking to recruit and co-advise a graduate student for a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project. This could be an MS or PhD position. We seek a student who is interested in developing theory using modeling to address major conceptual questions related to the ecology and evolution of migration, the timing of annual schedules, and/or the use of environmental cues in behavioral decision making. This student would have considerable freedom to pursue research questions of their choice under the umbrella of broad research themes in our labs. (For more information: and Providing excellent training and mentoring for graduate students in a supportive and inclusive environment that values diversity is a priority for us.

We have already had success providing joint training and mentoring for this type of project. It is helpful if students have some previous experience with quantitative methods and/or programming, but this is not necessary. More important is being curious and eager to learn modeling and quantitative skills to pose and solve interesting biological problems. The type of project(s) that this student could pursue also have the advantage of being less disrupted by COVID-19-related research restrictions. Depending on COVID-19 restrictions, there may be opportunities for the student to also gain experience in empirical research approaches used in the Watts Lab (this would be most likely for a PhD student).

The School of Biological Sciences includes a collaborative and supportive group of researchers with strengths in integrative organismal biology, evolution, and ecology ( Stipend support (including tuition waiver and health insurance) is guaranteed for admitted graduate students through teaching assistantships (see for more details). We are based at the WSU campus in Pullman, WA. Pullman and neighboring Moscow, ID (home to the University of Idaho) make up a community with all of the benefits of two land-grant universities in a small-town setting. The surrounding area offers a variety of outdoor activities.

The deadline for applications to the Graduate School is January 10th (the Biology graduate program does not require GRE scores). Interested applicants should contact Heather (heather[dot]watts[at]wsu[dot]edu) and Dick (gomulki[at]wsu[dot]edu) in advance of the deadline (we suggest you send one email and include both of us on it). Please include in your email a description of your research interests and any experience, as well as a curriculum vitae.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Congratulations Jon!

Congratulations to Jon on completing is MS degree! We are very excited that Jon will be starting a PhD program this fall in the Population Biology Graduate Group at UC Davis working with Dr. Kate Laskowski. But, we will miss having him in the lab.

Welcome Ben and Kevin

We are excited to have two new members join the lab this fall. Ben Vernasco has joined the lab as a postdoc and Kevin Jones has joined as a PhD student.

New papers on temperature and timing of breeding in house finches

We’ve had a couple of recent papers examining how temperature influences the timing of breeding in house finches:

Effects of temperature on the timing of breeding and molt transitions in house finches in the Journal of Experimental Biology

Temperature-correlated shifts in the timing of egg laying in House Finches Haemorhous mexicanus in Ibis

You can find summaries of these studies here (British Ornithological Union blog), here (Cornell Lab of Ornithology NestWatch blog), and here (WSU news).