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Graduate Students

MykellSmallMykell Reifer (MSc student – Fall 2015/Present)

Mykell graduated with a BSc Honours in Biology, Minor in Psychology from Carleton University in 2014. Mykell is an avid tennis player and coach, and is also a member of the Carleton University Competitive Tennis Team. He was been a member in the Bertram Lab for 2 years, and recently re-joined the lab to complete his Master’s degree. His undergraduate research focused on testing Gowaty’s Complimentary Genes (constraints) hypotheses by examining whether individuals who were mated with their non-preferred partners invested more in eggs but exhibited a decrease in the proportion of offspring that hatch and a decrease in the proportion of hatched offspring reaching adulthood. Currently, Mykell is exploring different options for his Master’s research. He wants to approach questions associated with mate preferences across species from either a behavioural physiology perspective, quantifying the energetics of crickets, or a neuroethological perspective, investigating animal behavior and its underlying mechanistic control by the nervous system.

Amy VillarrealAmy Villarreal (MSc student – Fall 2014/Present)

Amy graduated with an Honours BSc in Biology from the University of Ottawa. She plans on continuing her academic career by doing a PhD in Animal Behaviour studying syndromes and play behaviour. In her spare time, she volunteers at a local zoo and travels the world as much as possible. Amy’s current research examines the effects of the operational sex ratio (OSR) on female and male mate choice in the Jamaican field cricket, Gryllus assimilis. Social environment can play a huge role on sexual selection and how individuals choose a mate. If a female is exposed to a male-biased environment, where males are abundant, will she be more selective with the mate she chooses? And if a female is exposed to a female-biased environment, where males are scarce, will she less selective with her mate? Current research on this subject is contractive and little research as been conducted on male choice in varying social environments. Amy is also looking at the physical traits crickets use to choose a mate, including body size, body weight, weaponry size, and ovipositor length. Additionally, she is the testing the accuracy of a new dichotomous mate choice arena in providing reliable mate choice data.

Sarah CroppedSarah Harrison (PhD student – Fall 2010/Present)

Many studies in behavioural ecology have identified diet as an important determinant of organism phenotype, where for instance, levels of certain nutrients or diet quantity have been found to explain some of the variation in behaviours within a species. However, very few studies have comprehensively examined how the balance of multiple nutrients in the diet affects organism phenotype. Sarah’s research explores how the ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and phosphorus in the diet affects reproductive behaviors and fitness related life history traits in field crickets. Questions she is asking include: Which nutrient ratios result in attractive mating calls in males, highest egg output in females, greatest body condition, and longest survival? Do males and females differ in their nutritional requirements for optimal fitness? If, given a choice between multiple diets, do field crickets select a diet that optimizes their fitness? Do females sexually cannibalize potential mates when their diets are lacking in certain nutrients?

Genevieve FergusonGenevieve Ferguson (PhD student – Fall 2011/Present)

As humans further encroach on wild habitats we become responsible for understanding how our footprint affects the animals inhabiting these areas. Current research documents many instances of adaptive responses by animals to human occupancy. Genevieve’s current research interests focus on the interactions and consequences of human habitation to animal behaviour, especially acoustic communication and adult mating behaviour and how this relates to sexual selection pressures. Additionally, as much of adult behaviour is dependent on developmental environment, she is also interested in changes that occur within the acoustic rearing environment, and how these changes alter adult mating behaviour. Genevieve’s Ph.D. project will examine (1) differences between lab reared and wild caught Gryllus pennsylvanicus populations and the necessity of breaking diapause in lab-reared colonies; (2) how acoustic rearing environment affects later adult mating behaviour (in both males and females) in two local field cricket species, Gryllus pennsylvanicus and Gryllus veletis; and (3) if and how these species are affected by anthropogenic noise throughout different life periods.