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The Secret Lives of Gulls (and what their poo may reveal) with Dr. Kristen Covino: Zoom Evening Meeting reminder Tuesday, 6 April, 7:45 p.m.

April 5, 2021

Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society
is putting on our fifth ZOOM evening meeting.
You’re all invited.

Adult Great Black-backed Gull and chicks
On April 6, 2021 at 7:45 pm, Join the Zoom Presentation by CLICKING HERE

Hormones affect a wide range of physiological and behavioral traits of birds, but repeated testing of their blood isn’t possible for all species. Scientists want to study the link between testosterone and aggression in Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) but need a non-invasive and repeatable sampling method. If hormone levels can be reliably and easily determined from excreta, produced by the common voiding of urine and feces, that solves the problem. Students collect excreta samples from gulls throughout their breeding season on Appledore Island, Maine, then categorically score the gulls’ aggression levels. Then Dr. Covino’s Loyola students focus on developing, testing, and validating the protocols necessary for accurate hormone determination from the excreta. Once protocols are established, we’ll compare excreta testosterone levels to those from plasma to determine how well excreta hormone levels represent circulating hormone levels in this species. Following that, we’ll compare excreta testosterone levels to aggression scores of individual gulls. Ultimately we will also explore the effect of sex on aggression, testosterone, and the interaction between them. If successful, this study will validate the usefulness of excreta samples for hormone quantification in Great Black-backed Gulls and will allow for further exploration into hormonal drivers of behavior in this relatively understudied species.

Adult Great Black-backed Gull standing on a poop collection board
with mate on nest in background.

The 2019 Field Ornithology Class (Shoals Marine Laboratory) after conducting a gull population survey.
LMU students Frankie Foltz and Allie Waller
measuring out dried gull fecal samples.

Dr. Kristen Covino is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Loyola Marymount University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi where she investigated physiological breeding development in migrating songbirds. Her research ranges from avian physiology and behavioral endocrinology to continental-scale migratory movements, and seeks to understand the movement biology and whole life-cycle biology of migratory birds. Numerous journals have published her research, including: Hormones and Behavior, General and Comparative Endocrinology, Auk: Ornithological Advances, and The Journal of Ornithology. At Loyola she currently teaches Ecology & Evolution, General Physiology, and Avian Biology. Her teaching goals include integrating active- and team-learning activities into traditional lectures, incorporating science communication into courses, and mentoring undergraduate researchers. In the summer she teaches Field Ornithology at Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, Maine where she also co-manages the Appledore Island Bird Banding Station. Along with the Center for Urban Resilience Dr. Covino is also working to establish a bird banding site near Loyola Marymount University. Dr. Covino receives funding from the Foster (SMBAS) endowment at Loyola.

On April 6, 2021 at 7:45 pm, Join the Zoom Presentation by CLICKING HERE

(If this button isn’t working for you, see detailed zoom invitation below.)

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Passcode: 135769
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[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

  1. Lynn Bossone permalink
    April 6, 2021 8:57 pm

    Thanks for hosting this interesting program. Kristen is a terrific presenter!


    • Chukar permalink*
      April 7, 2021 11:33 am

      Lynn: I passed your comment along to Kristen. Both Lillian and I thought it was great as well. We don’t record our programs, so anyone who missed it missed a good one. But the May program, John Stirling on birding in Morocco, should be excellent as well, if his March program on Birds of the Calif. central valley is any indication.


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