Sara Bellefontaine (co-supervised w/ Dr. Paul Smith)
2021 - Present
Sara joined our lab in the Fall of 2021 and came into our team with lots of experience and interest in shorebirds. In trying to help tease apart the many mechanisms that may be driving declines in Arctic-breeding shorebirds, Sara examined the behavioural and physiological responses of multiple shorebird species to variability in weather conditions and nest site quality during incubation. To solve this complex problem, Sara first analyzed a long-term dataset from the East Bay Mainland shorebird research site led by co-supervisor Dr. Paul Smith at Environment and Climate Change Canada. Sara then took an experimental approach with fieldwork at Eat Bay using novel heart rate recording technology pioneered in eiders by our technician Chris Harris and recent MSc graduate Erica Geldart to quantify how environmental conditions and a bird’s choice of where to specifically orient its nest interact to impact the metabolic costs of incubation. Sara’s results indicate that windchill exposure plays a role in nest preferences without detectably influencing behavioural responses. These results were reinforced by new heart rate data suggesting that energetic demands are higher in colder windchill temperatures, and in some species, that greater nest concealment reduced energetic costs during incubation. Overall, these results highlight the variability in nest preferences among shorebird species, and suggest that the mechanisms underlying these preferences may be driven by multiple breeding parameters, including, but not limited to, thermoregulatory demands. Sara defended her MSc thesis in the early Fall of 2023 and is currently in St. Johns Newfoundland splitting time between manuscript prep and working for ECCC. So happy to have had you as an amazing member on our team Sara!