Dr. Powers took his show on the road and spend the month of March at WSL (a Swiss federal research institute) in Birmensdorf, Switzerland where collaborator Dr. Catherine Graham had recently moved from Stony Brook University in New York. The purpose of the trip was to spend focused time working to get products from the NASA grant completed since the end of the project was only a few months away. Also during this time Dr. Powers worked closely with Anusha Shankar, Dr. Graham’s Ph.D. student on completing manuscripts on hummingbird torpor and energy budgets that were funded by the grant.
Don at his desk at WSL.
Don's office building at WSL.
Up in the Alps! Mt. Titlis!
Classical concert in Zurich.
Day trip to Bern.
Looking down on Zurich.
Research team dinner at Catherine's apartment.
Anusha and Don engaged in the festivities of old Zurich.
Looking down on old Zurich.
Don's flat in Zurich.
Sunset along Lake Zurich.
Countryside along Lake Zurich.
Discussing science on the boat to Rapperswill.
Don, Catherine, Marissa, and Anusha above Lake Geneva.
From the vineyards along Lake Geneva!
The Powers Lab has three new research students for the coming year. This has been our most challenging year for funding students requiring an unusual amount of creativity! Emma Bloomquist, a junior biology major and member of the Honors Program at GFU was funded in the traditional way, through our Richter Scholar Program. Emma will be headed to Dr. Bret Tobalske’s lab at the University of Montana to conduct experiments to determine if hummingbirds can sufficiently disputed heat via evaporative water loss to maintain heat balance during hovering.
Isabelle Cisneros, a junior biology major, had perhaps the most creative path to funding for the coming year raising her support via crowd sourcing on the Experiment.com platform. Probably the best thing about this effort and its success was that the majority of our backers were former Powers Lab research students! This is a reaffirmation that the work we do in the lab makes a difference in student lives. Isabelle will travel to the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona where she will use infrared thermography to determine if hummingbirds can use shallow torpor (hypothermia). She will work closely with Anusha Shankar, a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University who has worked with our lab for several years on torpor studies. For complete details on Isabelle’s project see our Experiment.com page!
The final student to join the lab is sophomore biology major Kaheela Reid. Kaheela was funded this year by the GFU diversity program. This is the first time the diversity program has invested funds in this sort of thing, and we look forward to a successful year so that the program will continue to consider this type of investment. Kaheela will travel to Arizona along with Isabelle where her core project will be an investigation of how evaporative water loss influences resting metabolic rate in hummingbirds.
The entire lab packed up their data and traveled to the SICB meeting in Austin, TX January 3-7. The big day for the lab was Monday, January 6 when Don Powers gave a talk in the morning entitled “Physiological Sensitivity of Hummingbirds to Warming Environmental Temperatures” where he summarized data from this past summer. Later that afternoon all the students present posters in which specific projects were covered in greater depth. Specific posters presented were:
Influence of Environmental Temperature on Heat Dissipation in Hummingbirds (Katie Langland)
Is the Use of Torpor by Hummingbirds Limited in Landscapes with Warm Nighttime Temperatures? (Rebecca Schroeder)
Assessing Effects of Temperature on Daily Energy Expenditure in Hummingbirds Using a Non-Invasive Doubly Labeled Water Protocol (Joseph Canepa)
Using an Endotherm Energetic Model to Predict Hovering Metabolic Rate in Hummingbirds (Sean Powers)
All the students did really well at the meeting. One poster judge who judged Becca’s poster went out of his way to tell us how exceptionally well Becca did presenting her data. This is not surprising. Even though the lab is staffed only with undergraduates, our students routinely engage meeting attendees with a solid understanding of the science associated with their projects.
When school was over last spring the lab hardly had time to breath before we packed up and headed off to southeastern Arizona to start our first full season of data collection associated with the NASA project. Actually, I (Don) was the first to leave since I am too old to power through a drive from the north to the south end of the country in less than three days. Katie, Becca, and Joey on the other hand pretty much made it to Arizona at the same time I did but in one less day. We landed in Patagonia, AZ which would be our base of operations for the summer. This location is not only central to the landscapes we would work on this year but also near where friend and project collaborator Dr. Susan Wethington (Hummingbird Monitoring Network) lives.
The first week of of the field season was intense training to get everyone up to speed on applying what we had learned in the lab to an actual field setting. After that the next couple weeks were split between kicking off our work and supporting a collaborative project with Dr. Bret Tobalske (University of Montana). The collaborative work was an extension of heat-balance work on calliope hummingbirds that we have been doing at Bret’s lab in Montana. Here in Arizona we added larger size hummingbirds to the mix in the hope of looking at how size might influence various aspects of hovering.
For the balance of the summer our team focused on four key experiments designed to assess the physiological response of hummingbirds to temperature in the field: 1) Thermal profiling of two distinct landscapes, 2) measurement of daily energy expenditure using a modified version of the doubly-labeled water (DLW) technique, 3) assessment of a hummingbird’s thermal load across a broad temperature range using infrared thermography, and 4) assessment of differences in torpor use by hummingbirds that live in different temperature regimes. We spent a total of 2.5 months in Arizona completing these experiments returning to Newberg on July 18. The students did a marvelous job. They worked hard and never complained about the sometimes long days. Over the next several weeks we will be frantically crunching numbers in preparation for submitting abstracts for the January SICB meeting in Austin, TX. The deadline is August 26 (YIKES!).