Category Archives: Research News

Largest Lab Group Ever Travels to SICB 2015!!!

Last month six members of the Powers lab traveled to West Palm Beach, FL for the 2015 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting.  Those on the trip were Don Powers, Becca Schroeder, Joey Canepa, Sarah Nutter, Mimi Camacho, and Sean Powers.  The entire group present data from this past summer’s field season and the third year of our NASA-supported project on the effects of climate change on hummingbirds.  Here are some photo highlights!!

Mimi exploring posters on nest structure!!

Lunch time!!

Don talking on hummingbirds and climate change!!

Sarah talking heat dissipation with Mark Chappell!!

Poster session!!!!

Becca explaining torpor in tropical hummingbirds!!

Joey talking doubly labeled water!!!

Sean talking about heat dissipation!!

Mimi working the crowd!!

Sean with his poster!!

The Powers Lab team at SICB 2015!!

Becca with her poster!!!

Joey with his poster!!

Mimi with her poster!!

Sarah with her poster!

New Students Join the Powers Lab!

SNSara Nutter, junior biology major , joined the lab this spring.  Sara is interested in both field sciences and science writing and will continue infrared (IR) thermography studies in southeastern Arizona started by Katie Langland the last two years.  This year Sara will extend the IR work to high-elevation sites in an effort to increase our understanding of hummingbird tolerance of high environmental temperature.  Sara’s work, along with other projects she will contribute to, is part of the lab’s NASA-funded work on how hummingbirds might respond to climate change.  Sara’s work this summer will be funded by a George Fox University (GFU) Richter Scholar Grant.

IMG_1719Noemi (“Mimi”) Camacho, sophomore biology major, will also be joining the lab this spring.  While Mimi is interested in a career as a health professional she feels developing her basic science skills is complimentary to her professional goals.  Mimi’s core project will be mapping the thermal profile of our focal landscapes in southeastern Arizona.  This work, along with other projects Mimi will be involved in, is critical to the lab’s assessment of how hummingbirds might respond to climate change.  Mimi’s work this summer will be funded by a George Fox University (GFU) Richter Scholar Grant.

2013 Field Season Kicks Off With SE Arizona Workshop!

Research planning session at El Coronado.

Research planning session at El Coronado.

This year’s field season officially got underway with a week long workshop in southeastern Arizona. The purpose of the workshop was for the PIs of the hummingbird climate change project to select specific Arizona landscapes to be studied and to agree on questions to be addressed this coming summer. Additionally several interns from various parts of South America who will be working on the project this summer attended the workshop and were introduced to a variety of protocols for assessing nectar resources and measuring hummingbird energetics.

Weighing a hummingbird on our new Sartorius balance!

Weighing a hummingbird on our new Sartorius balance!

The Powers lab used this time to try out a revision of the non-invasive hummingbird doubly labeled water (DLW) protocol. The specific revision involves changing how we measure the initial dose size of isotopic water. To make this method totally non-invasive hummingbirds are dosed by feeding them nectar made with isotopically enriched water. Last summer dose size was calculated by weighing a syringe feeder before and after feeding the hummingbirds. This proved to be problematic as the syringe would occasionally drip creating large errors in our measured dose size. This year we have switched to measuring the bird before and after feeding. Additionally, we have purchased a more precise scale which should also improve the accuracy of our measurements.

The DLW sessions done during the workshop were highly successful! Between the two sessions (El Coronado Ranch and the Santa Rita Experimental Range) we labeled a total of 78 hummingbirds and recaptured 29. Our 37% recapture rate would be the envy of most doing DLW studies!

SICB Meeting 2013!

The lab packed up some of our results from this past year’s research and headed off to the SICB meeting in San Francisco to share them with national and international colleagues from across the globe.  Our work attracted a great deal of attention this year and the students did a wonderful job of exciting our colleagues about what we have been doing.


The first full day of the meeting was action packed!  The morning started with a special symposium in honor of the lifetime work of Ken Nagy (pictured), who in the 1970’s developed protocols for using the doubly-labeled water (DLW) technique to measure energy expenditure by animals in the field.  This method revolutionized our understanding of how animals cope with their environments in a variety of circumstances.  When Don Powers was a Master’s student at San Diego State in the early 1980’s he had the pleasure of doing a short project with Ken using DLW to measure daily energy costs in Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna).  This project resulted in Don’s second publication.

DPIV-ImageNext up Don Powers gave a talk entitled “Metabolic Power, Mechanical Efficiency, and Heat Production during Hovering and Forward Flight in Calliope Hummingbirds (Selasphorus calliope).” In his talk Don summarized the results of the work he and Bret Tobalske (University of Montana), along with several current and former research students, have been doing the past several years on maintenance of heat balance in hummingbirds during hovering and forward flight.  The picture on the left is an example of a Digital Particle Image Velocimetry (DPIV) image taken of one of our hummingbirds in flight.  DPIV was the method we used to calculate the amount of metabolic power that was used to run the hummingbird’s flight muscles.

IMG_0838That evening research student Luke Andrew presented his poster entitled “Use of Torpor by a High- and Mid-Elevation Hummingbird Species in Southeastern Arizona.”  The poster summarized data collected this past summer in collaboration with Dr. Susan Wethington of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network on patterns of torpor (nighttime hypothermia) use in broad-tailed (Selasphorus platycerus) and broad-billed (Cynanthus latirostris) hummingbirds.  Even though they put Luke back in a dark corner of the exhibit hall he had good traffic including some well known physiologists.

IMG_1258The lab’s final two poster presentations occurred on Sunday.  Research student Katie Langland presented her study entitled “Use of Infrared Thermography to Measure Body-Surface Heat Dissipation in Free-Living Hummingbirds.”  In this study, also done in collaboration with Dr. Susan Wethington, Katie explored the relationship between environmental temperature and surface heat loss in hummingbirds.  Katie had a busy night as there steady stream of attendees interested in what she had to say.

IMG_1256Finally, former research student and current adjunct instructor in the Biology Department Sean Powers agreed to help the lab out by analyzing some infrared thermography data and presented a poster entitled “The Importance of Female Temperature in the Attraction of Courting Males in Red-Sided Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis).”  Sean’s data cast doubt on a long-standing hypothesis that males are more attracted to cold females.  The basis of this hypothesis is that when females emerge from the den they are cold and likely to be unmated.

New Research Students Joining the Lab this Spring!

The Powers lab would like to welcome two new research students, Becca Schroeder and Joey Canepa, starting this Spring.

Becca 3Becca Schroeder is a sophomore biology major with a passion for work in the field.  She will be supported by the lab’s NASA grant and participate broadly in the lab’s work on the physiological response to climate change.  Becca has also received funding from the university’s Richter Scholar program to support a study on how frequently hummingbirds in different habitats use torpor.  After graduation Becca plans to pursue graduate studies in biology.

IMG_0813Joey Canepa is a sophomore biology major who truly enjoys studying animals.  His research will focus on understanding the relationship between daily energy expenditure and environmental temperature in hummingbirds found in different habitats.  Joey’s work will be supported by a George Fox University Richter Scholar Grant.  After graduation Joey plans to earn an advanced degree in biology.

IMG_0324Returning to the lab for another year will be veteran research student Katie Langland.  This past year Katie worked both on red-sided garter snakes in Manitoba, Canada and hummingbirds in southeastern Arizona.  This year Katie will be focusing on thermal loads and surface heat dissipation in hummingbirds using infrared thermography.  Katie’s work is supported by a Richter Scholar Grant.  After graduation Katie hopes to pursue a graduate degree and study some aspect of shark biology.