Graduate Student Opportunities
in Dan Mennill's Lab



Introduction

Research in my lab focuses on the ecology and evolution of animal vocal behaviour and animal mating strategies, with a focus on wild birds in the temperate zone and the tropics, and on bioacoustic approaches to studying the ecology and conservation of wild animals. If you are interested in studying these topics with me as a graduate student, please read the information on this page and write to me to introduce yourself.

In 2014: I am actively searching for a Canadian graduate student to conduct doctoral studies on acoustic communication and cultural evolution in Savannah Sparrows, under the co-supervision of myself and Ryan Norris (University of Guelph). The start date will be in 2014 or 2015. Read our advertisement here.

Also in 2014: I am actively searching for Canadian Master's students interested in using bioacoustic tools to study bird migration through the Great Lakes, and the responses of birds to anthropogenic disturbance. Field research will involve state-of-the-art bioacoustic monitoring technologies combined with field-studies of wild birds around the Great Lakes. If these topics interest you, please email me to introduce yourself (dmennillATuwindsorDOTca). 

Project Ideas

I encourage my students to develop graduate thesis projects that match their individual interests within the fields of animal communication and avian bioacoustics. You may interact directly with one of my ongoing research projects or you may develop your own project. All projects in my lab involve both field-based and lab-based research components. In Canada, field research is possible in the vicinity of University of Windsor's campus around the Great Lakes, at Queen's University Biological Station in eastern Ontario, or at Bowdoin Scientific Research Station in New Brunswick. In Costa Rica, field research is possible in Sector Santa Rosa of the Guanacaste Conservation Area. Presently, I have ongoing field projects in Canada on the behavioural ecology and communication strategies and mating strategies of songbirds including Black-capped Chickadees and Savannah Sparrows. In Costa Rica, I am presently studying the behaviour and ecology of non-migratory, territorial birds, with a special focus on the duetting behaviour of neotropical birds. You can learn more about my current research projects by visiting my publications page.

My lab is equipped with advanced equipment for field studies of animal behaviour and communication. In my lab you can develop a research project using digital recording equipment (for both automated recording and focal recording), interactive playback equipment, multi-speaker playback equipment, multi-channel array recording equipment (for both wired and wireless microphone arrays), and high precision GPS equipment. My lab is an international leader in the development of new technologies for studying acoustic communication in wild animals, and you can expect to develop expertise with state-of-the-art techniques in this area. The lab component of your research can involve computer-based analyses of single-channel and multi-channel field recordings. The Mennill Sound Analysis Lab houses over 150 TB of drive space containing more than a decade of archived digital recordings from around the world. In collaboration with my colleagues, you can also have access to advanced facilities for laboratory analyses including molecular paternity analyses, analyses of genetic relatedness, molecular sex assignment, and hormone analyses. The University of Michigan Vertebrate Museum is only a short drive away in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so that projects that focus on museum-based studies are also possible.

What to expect in the Mennill Lab

My lab is a dynamic and interactive place. You can expect to interact with me and with the other graduate students, undergraduate students, and postdocs in the lab on a frequent basis. You can expect to develop skills in data analysis and data presentation. I will encourage you and assist you in preparing your research for publication in scientific journals. I will also encourage you to present the results of your research at scientific meetings. I expect you to work hard and to approach your studies with a critical eye and a creative state of mind. We often meet socially on Friday afternoons and we have several lab social events every semester, often involving a birdwatching expedition with a visiting guest speaker. Many more social activities are organized by the Department of Biology Graduate Students Association (DBGSA).

Funding

Funding for graduate studies in my lab is available through a variety of sources. As with all graduate students at the University of Windsor, students in my lab are guaranteed a competitive funding package upon admission to the graduate school. Funding comes in the form of Graduate Teaching Assistantships (September to April of each year) and Research Assistantships from my grants (May to August of each year). Funding can be supplemented through scholarships that you apply for. I encourage you to apply for scholarships from NSERC (link: www.nserc.ca, go to "Information for Students and Fellows") and from OGS (link: osap.gov.on.ca). If you are not familiar with these programs, I can help you learn about the application process. Details about grad student support, as well as other information about my department, can be found at www.uwindsor.ca/biology (click on the Grad Students link along the left-hand side and choose Biological Sciences Graduate Studies). I encourage all of my students to apply to the many granting agencies who support graduate student research (see BirdNet for a comprehensive list of all grants available).

University of Windsor

The University of Windsor is an excellent research university in southern Ontario. Historically recognized for a strong teaching program, the University has recently developed an impressive research portfolio in the areas of ecology and evolution. The Ecology Evolution Environment and Behaviour (EEEB) group is comprised of a diverse group of research scientists that are some of the most outstanding research-oriented biologists in Canada. Students in my lab interact closely with Dr. Stephanie Doucet, who studies the evolutionary ecology of animal colouration, Dr. Trevor Pitcher, who studies the ecology and evolution of mating systems in fish and birds, Dr. Oliver Love, who studies hormones and behaviour in wild birds, Dr. Dennis Higgs, who studies fish sensory biology and fish bioacoustics, and Dr. Daniel Heath, who studies molecular ecology and conservation biology through genetic tools. You can access my colleagues' webpages through this link.

We bring in a wide variety of guest speakers to the University of Windsor through the Departmental Seminar Series and through the Behaviour Cognition and Neuroscience Seminar Series. In the recent past we have hosted very stimulating visits from Dr. Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde, Dr. Peter Dunn, Dr. Linda Whittingham, Dr. Jordan Price, Dr. John Klicka, Dr. Ryan Norris, Dr. Jeff Podos , Dr. David Lahti, Dr. Beth MacDougall-Shackleton, Dr. Nigel Mann, Dr. Ben Evans, Dr. Angelika Poesel, Dr. Geoff Hill, Dr. Gail Patricelli, Dr. Chris Sturdy, Dr. Jim Quinn, Dr. John Burt, and Dr. Michael Kasumovic.

The city of Windsor is a goodplace to live and study. It is an underrated city which hosts an impressive diversity of fine restaurants, good pubs, many nearby hiking trails, lakes and rivers, and reasonably-priced housing. Bird watching around Windsor is excellent in all seasons. Point Pelee and Holiday Beach are two of the world's finest spots for watching bird migration, and they're both just a short drive away. Many graduate students in my laboratory volunteer with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory, and have expanded their mist netting skills each fall while assisting with local migration monitoring efforts.

Contact Me

If you are interested in graduate work in my lab, please contact me to introduce yourself (dmennillATuwindsorDOTca). Please include your CV and a brief explanation of your research interests.

Note to non-Canadians: My university has increased international grad student tuition to such a degree that it is very expensive for non-Canadians. University of Windsor does offer a very limited number of scholarships for non-Canadians who have strong track records (e.g. several published papers, high grades, and experience as a biologist) and I would be happy to communicate with you about these scholarships if this applies to you. Otherwise, it is almost impossible for me to take on non-Canadians unless they have independent funding. I hope that this situation might change in the future.


Dan with a black-capped chickadee.
 

Recording animal communication networks using a 16-channel acoustic location system.
 

Setting up automated listening stations to conduct long-term remote monitoring.
 

Multi-speaker playback for simulating interactions between multiple birds.
 

Iinteractive playback for engaging territorial birds in realistic interactions.
 

The Biology Building at the University of Windsor and the Mennill/Norris Lab Subaru.
 

The Mennill Sound Analysis Laboratory.
 

Capacity for storage of over 150 terrabytes of digital sound recordings.
 


Study museum specimens at the nearby University of Michigan vertebrate museum.


Field research site: Ontario at Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS).
 

A black-capped chickadee at QUBS.
 

Winter field research banding chickadees at QUBS.
 

Field research site: The Mennill/Doucet research house in Costa Rica.
 

A duetting Thryothorus wren in Costa Rica.
 

Adventuresome field research in Canada or the tropics.