Asst. Prof. Eli Bridge

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Here’s an obligatory picture of me and some kind of sparrow.

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I think I became a scientist because I like problem solving and figuring out how to do difficult things. So tracking small birds across very large distances fits the bill. Much of my research has to do with the migrations of songbirds, and I am interested in all aspects of this behavior, from physiology to speciation. In addition to birds I have an affinity from gadgets. In my lab we often construct our own research tools, including geolocators, radio transmitters, rfid readers, and things that have no name as of yet. We also like to share our designs with other researchers, so shoot us an email if you have an idea or an application you want to try.

Graduate Students

Heather LePage

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In 2012, Heather received her B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida. Following graduation she worked as a biological field technician on a variety of avian projects. Her work in Oklahoma with Dr. Alex Jahn concerning migration of tyrant flycatchers led to her meeting Dr. Bridge and becoming interested in his work using geolocators to track long-distance migrants. In the fall of 2016 she began her M.S. studies in the Bridge lab. Currently she is looking into whether heavy metal contamination (e.g. lead, cadmium, zinc) affects the memory and associative learning capabilities of wild songbirds. Her study site is the Tar Creek Superfund Site (TCSS) in northeastern Oklahoma. She plans to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) enabled specialized food dispensers (“smart feeders”) to attract, monitor, and test common feeder birds at TCSS and compare the results with those of birds at non-contaminated reference sites.

 

Kate Goodenough

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Kate is an ecologist with a background in marine biology, vertebrate physiology, and movement ecology. She completed a double BS degree in marine biology and zoology at Humboldt State University in Northern California, and received an MS in ecology from San Diego State University. Kate’s focus has always been on coastal nesting birds including skimmers and their allies. She is currently pursuing a doctorate focused on life history strategies of skimmers and terns in North America and the Amazon. Her dissertation topics focus upon nest-site selection of river-beach nesting waterbirds in the Amazon and the tradeoffs these species incur when faced with predation threat, flooding threat, extreme temperatures, and impacts to reproductive success. She is also working on a comparative analysis of Black Skimmer wing morphology across a latitudinal gradient to explore relationships between functional morphology and migration strategy.

 

William Oakley

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The purpose of Will’s dissertation research is to test hypotheses and provide knowledge on how individual birds move and disperse through human-altered landscapes and how they select particular habitats during the non-breeding season.
For his dissertation research, he will focus on 1) the winter site fidelity and functional connectivity of Seaside, Saltmarsh, and Nelson’s Sparrows and 2) the post-breeding communal roosting behavior of Purple Martin. The data acquired from this research is essential for successfully predicting species’ responses to impacts of land-use and/or climate change as well as making informed conservation decisions. Methods: Manipulative and non-manipulative field-based experiments coupled with radio-tracking methods; computer-based modeling (e.g. individual-based models). For more information about Will or his research interests, check out his website. You can also follow him on Instagram (@oakleysc) and Twitter (@WF_Oakley).

 

Meelyn Mayank Pandit

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Meelyn is a first year PhD student at the OK Biological Survey. His interest in birds and behavioral ecology began when he joined the Ketterson Lab at Indiana University as a Cox Research Scholar where he studied the differences in singing behavior between city and montane Oregon juncos. He then obtained his master’s degree at Oklahoma State University, where he studied how anthropogenic noise affected relationships between behaviors in eastern bluebirds. His goal at OU is to integrate microtechnology, such as the Raspberry Pi computer and geolocators, into field biology to study eastern bluebird parental care and migratory behavior, respectively. Other research interests include migratory systems, ecological factors that affect avian singing behavior, and using wildlife as a teaching tool for K-12 students

 

 

Undergraduates

 

 

Postdoctoral Researchers

Carmen Chilson

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Carmen is a computer scientist specializing in machine learning. She enjoys playing with data and working on challenging problems. She graduated with her master’s degree in December 2017 with a thesis that focused on automated bird roost detection using NEXRAD radar data. She built a convolutional neural network that was able to determine whether an individual NEXRAD radar could see a bird roost at a given time step with 90 percent accuracy. At the Bridge Lab she is trying to improve upon her master’s research by using machine learning to find exactly where in the radar image the bird roosts are located. Her previous work experience includes developing educational video games, applied research on educational video game data, and applied machine learning at Google’s android location and context research team.

 

Claire M. Curry

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Claire is a quantitative biologist using a wide range of software tools to explore interesting research questions. Her research particularly focuses on effects of natural and altered environments on behavior and distribution. Her projects examine this at all scales ranging from specific responses to anthropogenic noise pollution to a theoretical framework tying together natural and sexual selection in hybrid zones. She has a long-standing interest in natural history of birds, odonates, and lichens. Her Ph.D. at OU focused on behavioral and genetic dynamics of a spatiotemporally complex avian hybrid zone. Previously, she worked as a Post-doctoral Fellow and Research Associate with Nicola Koper at the University of Manitoba, examining effects of oil infrastructure noise on prairie bird behavior. She is currently a Post-doctoral Research Associate jointly in the Patten lab and the Bridge lab, working on landscape ecology and software for data management in animal tracking, respectively.

 

Wesley T. Honeycutt

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Wes is a technologist who specializes in physical chemistry, electronics, and device design. His current research interests include the application of sensing technologies to difficult scientific challenges. In the Bridge lab, this involves designing autonomous turrets for observation, precision reward dispensers for behavioral studies, coming up with novel ideas in his lab. Wes has a strong commitment to inter-disciplinary pursuits by experience working with engineers, scientists, and business-people across several projects. His Ph.D. work at OSU focused on the development of gas microseepage sensors for carbon sequestration sites at oil extraction sites, as well as side projects on environmental uranium adsorption, peroxide explosives detection, and personal air-quality sensor design.

 

 

Alumni

Jackson Helms

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Jackson’s research focuses on ants, but unlike many ant biologists Jackson has turned his lens upward to address questions relating to the winged queens and drones that are responsible for reproduction and dispersal in most ant species. His work proposes a new hypothesis (the Found or Fly Hypothesis) to explain how ant queens negotiate tradeoffs associated with dispersal ability and their capacity to initiate a new colony. Jackson’s endeavors in support of this hypothesis have ranged from basic natural history discoveries (how long can ant’s fly?) to spatially explicit models of alternative dispersal strategies. His work touches on the fundamentals of life-history theory as well as the emerging field of aeroecology. Before he became a scientist Jackson was a marine and fought in the Iraq War. Jackson’s blog “Marine to Myrmecologist” tells the story of his adventurous career path.  Jackson Graduated with a Ph.D. in the spring of 2016.  He is currently a Post-doctoral Research Associate working for Nick Haddad at Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station studying interactions between habitat fragmentation, insect dispersal, and ecosystem services.

 

Jeremy Ross

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Jeremy was a post doc in the lab from May 2013 to March 2015. After a stint as Executive Director of the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He returned to OU as an assistant professor at the Oklahoma Biological Survey. Jeremy is an enthusiastic birder, traveler, foodie, and hockey fan. He was raised a farm boy in Manitoba before getting a Ph.D. from Bowling Green University in Ohio. Jeremy’s focus is on avian conservation, and he uses a wide variety of tools including weather models, tracking technology, stable isotopes, and agent-based modeling in his studies.

 

Sabrina Waugh

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Sabrina did her Honors Thesis in the Bridge lab with a study of the immune systems of Purple Martins. She used a bacterial killing assay, white blood cell counts, and parasite counts to compare Purple Martins at high density and low density colonies.
Sabrina is now in Vet School at Colorado State University and is working toward a career researching zoonotic disease. She will soon be an intern at the Office of International Health and Biodefense in the US State Department.

 

Andrea Contina

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Andrea’s interests revolve around molecular ecology, genomics, and conservation biology. He got his Masters at the University of Exeter (UK) and his Ph.D. here at the University of Oklahoma with Jeff Kelly. His research probed several avenues of inquiry associated with Painted Buntings and regional variations in their migration behavior. As part of this work, he deployed geolocators on Painted Buntings in Oklahoma to reveal their migration path and developed extensive songbird migration research through the use of stable isotopes, microsatellite DNA, and SNPs. Andrea is currently a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Oklahoma (OU) – Oklahoma Biological Survey and he is involved with the National Science Foundation – National Research Traineeship (NRT) program at OU. If you want to know more about Andrea’s research feel free to visit his website.  Andrea was a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the lab from May 2015 to July 2016, and is now working as a postdoc for Jeff Kelly.

 

Gabriel Melhado

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Gabriel visited the lab for the summer of 2016 as part of the Brazilian Scientific Mobility program, picking up some experience handling birds and learning some coding and analysis skills. For fun, he enjoys making us Americans feel really bad about our soccer skills.  Gabriel will be completing his undergraduate degree in Biology at Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in June of 2018, and he will begin his Master’s thesis work on ecotoxicology in birds.

 

 

Collaborators

Jeff Kelly – University of Oklahoma

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Jeff is Director of the Oklahoma Biological Survey and is the academic father of the Bridge Lab–that is, he was my post-doc advisor. We collaborate with Jeff in some way on just about everything. Jeff is one of the founders of Aeroecology as an academic discipline and leads an NSF funded National Research Traineeship at OU that uses Aeroecology as a proving ground for training interdisciplinary scientists. Jeff studies bird migration and is currently focusing on ways to combine a variety of data sources (e.g. weather radar, eBird, and satellite remote sensing) to observe and explain continental scale migration phenomena.

Jeff’s website.

 

Rosemary Knapp – University of Oklahoma

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Rosemary teaches Principles of Physiology every other semester, and we collaborate on generating new course material (including the online coursebook) and generally making the course better each year. In 2015 we offered Principles of Physiology as a Presidential Dream Course and brought in guest speakers from the US and the UK as well as OU to interact with the class.

 

Vladimir Pravosudov – University of Nevada, Reno

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Vladimir is leading an investigation into the cognitive abilities of food caching birds (e.g., Mountain Chickadees) in environments that differ in terms of harshness. He is testing the basic idea that harsher environments will select for individuals with better long term memories that allow them to recover more cached food. His current project makes extensive use of RFID enabled bird feeders, which is where we come in.

 

John Eadie – University of California, Davis

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John is using RFID technology to monitor brood parasitism (i.e., females laying eggs in nests of other females) among Wood Ducks in northern California. By tagging individuals with RFID transponders and putting readers on nest boxes, John is tracking individual brood parasitism activity and looking at relatedness among the egg dumpers and the recipients. Maybe the burden of raising someone else’s ducklings is tempered by the fact that the other female is a relative.

 

Ellen Ketterson – Indiana University

We wkettersonFieldork with Ellen and her Post-docs Adam Fudickar and Jonathan Atwell on migratory genomics. We have carried out RNAseq analyses to look at gene expression in tissues from both migratory and non-migratory Dark-eyed Juncos that winter in the same location. We found differential expression in hundreds of genes in both blood and muscle (details here).