E-Bird Canada Overview

Avian reproduction and environmental change: integrating ecology and physiology

Integrating Ecology and Physiology

Although widely advocated, the evolutionary viewpoint of ecology and the mechanistic viewpoint of physiology/endocrinology are rarely examined in a single study. There is however a growing interest in combining these different viewpoints (e.g. Ketterson & Nolan 1999; Feder et al. 2000; Zera & Harshman 2001) and multidisciplinary studies are needed. The research network outlined in this proposal will serve as a nexus for collaboration between ecologists and physiologists/endocrinologists. Such a network is an ideal way of addressing this problem and will be extremely cost-effective in facilitating the rapid progression of innovative and integrative research. Birds provide an ideal system for such an integrative project, because their reproduction is well studied within the framework of behavioural ecology, their physiology is generally well-understood through laboratory studies, and they are amenable to both ecological and endocrinological manipulation in the field. Although ecologists and endocrinologists have independently made great progress in understanding avian reproduction, further progress now depends crucially on being able to integrate these two areas. Ecologists need to know the physiological control mechanisms underlying the plasticity they seek to understand in ecological terms, while endocrinologists need to know more about the ecological context in which physiological control mechanisms have evolved. There is therefore an urgent need from a fundamental scientific viewpoint for the complementary approaches of endocrinologists and ecologists to be brought together. As the need for exchange between ecologists and endocrinologists is equally pressing in Europe and North America we have established this collaborative Network on Avian reproduction and environmental change: integrating ecology and physiology between the European Science Foundation (ESF), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NSERC.

There is widespread evidence for ecological impacts of recent climate change, although different responses at the ecosystem to species level means that there is still considerable uncertainty with regard to organismal and population responses. Birds are highly visible components of the world's ecosystems, and changes in their visibility and abundance are a major focus for public concern about, and scientific interest in, possible detrimental environmental changes. Long-term, phenological data from avian populations has provided some of the best evidence for impacts of climate change. Our NSERC funding will support a Canadian component of, and Canadian participation in, this international network. We will organise a Canadian conference (2006) and technical meeting (2005), as well as supporting Canadian researchers to attend international conferences and workshop, technical meetings and laboratory exchanges funded by European and USA partners. This will allow the development of new collaborations in Canada and internationally for Canadian researchers generated through the Network's activities. This represents a "unique opportunity" for Canadian researchers to be full partners in a broader multi-year, European-American collaborative Network. This will, a) place Canadians at the cutting edge of a developing field, b) create visibility for Canadian "know how" and research, c) allow Canadians to learn and update new approaches and methods, enriching our research and teaching environment, d) develop research collaborations that will attract foreign participation in Canadian research efforts, and e) increase the international mobility of Canadian students and PDFs through their participation in workshops and exchanges with some of the leading researchers in the world.

Copyright 2005, E-Bird Canada. Last modified 2005-05-24.

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