Category Archives: Research News

Powers Lab Studies Keel Bone Damage in Laying Hens

The Powers Lab began work on a study of keel bone damage in laying hens in collaboration with a research group headed by Dr. Alexandra Harlander at Guelph University. The research group will also involve long time collaborator Bret Tobalske at the University of Montana. The core goal of the project will be to understand what aspects of communal housing lead to injury and mortality rates higher than for caged hens. Of specific interest will be damage to the keel bone, especially fractures, that are known to be quite painful. Susceptibility to skeletal injury is like a consequence of selection for high egg project. The increasing demand for cage-free eggs by consumers has heightened the need to understand the best ways to provide enriched environments for hens that minimize risk of injury.

The Powers Lab will oversee experiments designed to assess the energetic cost of keel bone injury to the hens. This will include measurement of both resting and active metabolic rates, including metabolic rate during short-term flights. We will also measure daily energy expenditure using doubly labeled water. Our work on the project officially started on December 11 when Don traveled to the University of Montana to train Dr. Neila Ben Sassi, a postdoc on the project, and graduate student Renee Garant on open-flow respirometry and blood sample collection for doubly labeled water. While in Montana we used rock pigeons for the training sessions since Bret had already trained them to wear the respirometry mask needed for some measurements.

From left to right Neila, Don, Bret, and Renee!! The whole gang in the Flight Lab!
Rock pigeon wearing a respiratory mask for demonstration of using open-flow respirometry to measure the metabolic cost of short flights.

Once things get into full swing Don and possible one of the undergraduate researchers will likely make a trip to Guelph mid-summer to help with the work.

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Powers Lab Travels to SICB

This week the Powers Lab travel to Austin, TX for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting. Undergraduate researches Elliot Shannon and Nathaniel Shiiki presented posters on the work they did in Arizona this past Summer, while lab PI Don Powers gave a talk on his most recent work on heat dissipation during hovering in calliope hummingbirds done in collaboration with Dr. Bret Tobalske’s lab at the University of Montana. Once again both Elliot and Nathaniel did amazing jobs with their presentations receiving praise from many who attended their poster sessions.

Elliot ready to present his poster at SICB!
Nathaniel ready to present his poster at SICB!
Don giving his talk at SICB!

This year’s SICB meeting was particular rewarding as we got to spend time with former undergraduate researchers in the Powers Lab Sean Powers (yes, Don’s F1) and Keely Corder. Sean is currently a Ph.D. student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA and Keely is a Ph.D. student at the University of Montana.

Sean Powers presenting his research on gypsy moths at SICB!

It was also great to reconnect with many friends and colleagues from across the world. It was good to spend time Dave Swanson (University of South Dakota, and GFU alumnus), Todd McWhorter (University of Adelaide), Anusha Shankar (University of Alaska), Hugh Ellis (University of San Diego), Ken Welch (University of Toronto), Blair Wolf (University of New Mexico), Bob Mason (Oregon State University), Chris Clark (University of California, Berkeley), Kimberly Sheldon (University of Tennessee), and many others. It was also fun to meet and chat with several graduate students who expressed interest in the work we do in the Powers Lab. All in all the meeting was a very productive time both professionally and personally.

Sean Powers presenting at SICB

Powers Lab crew at SICB

Opening plenary session at SICB

Nathaniel prenting to Dr. Jon Harrison from Arizona State University

Elliot working his poster at SICB

Dr. Sheila Patek, Duke University, giving the plenary at SICB

Don wrapping up his talk at SICB

Undergraduate Researchers Present at the 2019 Murdock College Science Research Conference

This month all three of the undergraduate researchers in the Powers lab presented data at the Murdock College Science Research Conference in Vancouver, WA. This is a meeting that is focused on undergraduates, and the sole goal is to promote serious science research at small institutions like George Fox University. Further, the students receive input and encouragement from faculty who teach at institutions throughout the Northwest. I think that the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, and program direction Dr. Moses Lee, do an amazing job with this conference.

Nathaniel Shiiki and Elliot Shannon presented the results of the work they did in Arizona this past summer. Presenting at the Murdock Conference is a great tuneup for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting that wee will attend in a couple months.

Elliot Shannon presenting his poster at the Murdock conference!
Nathaniel Shiiki presenting his poster at the Murdock conference.

Also presenting was Tiffany Regier who presented data I collected in collaboration with Dr. Bret Tobalske and his Ph.D. student Tony Lapsansky last May. This was a great opportunity for Tiffany to gain presentation experience as she gears up to write her own research proposal in the Spring.

Tiffany Regier presenting her poster at the Murdock conference.

Powers Lab group photo!

George Fox University crew at the Murdock Conference banquet.

Nathaniel Shiiki presenting his poster.

Elliot Shannon presenting his poster.

Tiffany Regier presenting her poster.

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.

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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