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UTSC researcher receives Women in Science Research Fellowship

UTSC post-doc Laura McKinnon relishes the opportunity to conduct field work especially in the arctic. (Photo by Cedrik Juillet)

UTSC postdoc Laura McKinnon has received a L’Oréal Canada “For Women in Science Research Excellence Fellowship” for her work on the effects of climate change on arctic-nesting shorebirds.

Established in 2003, the fellowship program rewards excellence by enabling Canadian women scientists to pursue and expand their research projects. The fellowships are awarded by L’Oréal Canada with the support of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

McKinnon’s fellowship will aid new research she is undertaking in Kenneth Welch’s lab at UTSC—looking at how rising temperatures at breeding grounds may be affecting the shorebirds. With insects hatching earlier due to the warmth, shorebird chicks may be missing out on peak food availability.

“The summer is already very short to begin with, and it takes time for birds to adjust to changing climate patterns,” she says. “The work I am doing will focus on whether chicks are hatching outside these peak food times and if it’s affecting their chances at survival.”

As an expert on the reproductive and migratory behaviour of arctic-nesting shorebirds, McKinnon focuses on predation, breeding and metabolism to explore how the long journey these remarkable birds undertake affects their chances at survival.

McKinnon, who conducts much of her field work in Churchill, Manitoba and Bylot Island –a small island just north of Baffin Island– relishes the opportunity to get out in the field and view her research subjects in nature.

 “The arctic is such an exciting place to do research because when you arrive for the summer you can experience four seasons in two months or less,” she says. “Not only is it intellectually exciting, but I get a physical rush experiencing the massive transformation that takes place.”


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