Meet the folks conducting research in the Branch Lab! Members of the Branch Lab prioritize creating an inclusive lab environment where all voices are welcome and heard regardless of academic status or background.

Current members

Carrie Branch, PI

Dr. Carrie L Branch is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Western University and Principal Investigator of the Branch Lab. She is interested in how variation in the environment shapes the behavior of nonhuman animals, particularly birds. Dr. Branch teaches Animal Behaviour (Psych 3221G) at Western. She enjoys hanging out with her two fluffy dogs, watching comedy, and just about anything outdoors!

Jennifer Misener, Psychology Honours Student

Jen is a fourth year undergraduate student at Western working on her Honours Specialization in Psychology. She is measuring reflectance in mountain chickadee feathers to assess whether the standing variation present in their achromatic plumage patches can provide information about condition or sex to receivers.

Thesis title: Is it a signal? Achromatic plumage reflectance in mountain chickadees

Megan Walls, Psychology Honours Student

Megan is a fourth year undergraduate student at Western working on her Honours Specialization in Psychology. She is analyzing black-capped chickadee vocalizations across North America to assess seasonal changes in their use and structure.

Thesis title: Using citizen science to assess annual variation in black-capped chickadee vocalizations

Alyssa is a fourth year undergraduate student at Cornell University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is using microsatellites (short segments of DNA) to assess nestling sex ratios in mountain chickadees.

Project title: Effects of annual climatic variation on the sex ratios of nestling mountain chickadees

Ethan completed his BSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell in 2020. He measured variation in the achromatic plumage patches of mountain chickadees across elevations and spatial cognitive tasks. Ethan has research experience working in molecular labs and the African savannah, and hopes to pursue a graduate degree working on ungulates.

Project title: Achromatic plumage patch size is associated with selection on winter climatic harshness and reversal learning performance in a food-caching bird

Mahnoor R, High School student from Maryland

Mahnoor is a junior in high school with a passion for birds! She is using Google Earth to assess post-natal dispersal distances in mountain chickadees across our two elevation sites.

Project title: Post-natal dispersal of mountain chickadees

Norman adding to the discussion at lab meeting

Past students

Samantha Huang

Samantha completed her BSc in Environmental Science and Sustainability at Cornell in 2020. She completed and published her honours thesis project looking at variation in daily singing routines of mountain chickadees. Samantha is now at Lethbridge University working on her MSc. In addition. to her interest in avian song research, Samantha is a gifted cellist!

Research interests: ornithology, vocalization classification, community and functional ecology

Thesis title: Mountain chickadee (Poecile gambeli) song propensity over an elevation gradient