Dr. Elizabeth Gow

Postdoc (2016-present)

I study life-history, ecology and evolution of animals using a full annual cycle approach. Life history is a central pillar of ecological, evolutionary, and biodiversity research, and the foundation of conservation, yet we know little about the life history and ecology of most organisms on earth and even less about how individual life histories are shaped by interactions across different stages of the annual cycle. Following individuals throughout the annual cycle presents logistical challenges, yet are critical because billions of animals migrate between breeding and non-breeding sites. My past research has examined how seasonal interactions and resource use shape life history strategies and how mating system dynamics can influence parental care and offspring survival and the associated seasonal interactions.

At the University of Guelph, I am working on two main projects. As part of my NSERC postdoctoral research fellowship, I am collaborating with over 26 researchers from across North America to examine seasonal interactions at the individual, population, and geographic levels of a migratory cavity-nesting songbird (tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor). I am developing models to examine spatiotemporal variation in behaviour and ecology across timing events within the annual cycle, such as reproduction, moult, migration, and non-breeding periods. We are aiming to create a migratory network for tree swallows, which identifies areas and time periods of importance for populations throughout the annual cycle.

For my Liber Ero postdoctoral fellowship I am assessing the temporal and geographic impact of feral and owned cats on Canadian birds. Cats kill an estimated 1–3 million birds annually in Canada, suggesting cats may have a significant impact on wild bird populations. My research aims to develop conservation solutions that help birds, cats, and people by working with conservation organizations (i.e., Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada), researchers from the Ontario Veterinary College (Drs. Shane Bateman and Jason Coe), the University of Guelph (Dr. Ryan Norris), and The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science- Appalachian Lab (Dr. Tyler Flockhart) to develop improved cat and bird management plans. I plan to use (i) GPS tracking of cats and video cameras on cats to assess how many and what species of birds cats are killing and how this varies throughout the year; (ii) trail cameras to assess free-roaming cat populations; and (iii) road kill surveys and veterinary records to develop “heat maps” that identify areas where bird mortality, free-roaming cat populations, and cat mortality are the highest. Collectively these data will help identify the areas where cats pose the biggest threat to birds and where cats may also face the biggest threats. By approaching this complex conservation issue by focusing on what is best for both cats and birds, I envision my research helping conservation efforts by bringing together cat-lovers and bird-lovers so that we can better protect both cats and birds.


Knight SM, DW Bradley, RG Clark, EA Gow, M Bélisle, L Berzins, T Blake, ES Bridge, RD Dawson, PO Dunn, D Garant, G Holroyd, AG Horn, DJT Hussell, O Lansdorp, AJ Laughlin, ML Leonard, F Pelletier, D Shutler, L Siefferman, C Taylor, H Trefry, CM Vleck, D Vleck, DW Winkler, LA Whittingham, DR Norris. 2018. Constructing and evaluating a continent-wide migratory songbird network across the annual cycle. In press: Ecological Monographs

Reid JM, G Bocedi, P Nietlisbach, AB Duthie, ME Wolak, EA Gow, P Arcese. 2016. Variation in parent-offspring kinship in socially monogamous systems with extra-pair reproduction and inbreeding. Evolution 70:1512–19 DOI: 10.1111/evo.12953

Gow EA. 2015. Analyzing geolocator data for birds that roost in cavities year-round. Journal of Field Ornithology 87:74–83 DOI: 10.1111/jofo.12130

Gow EA, KL Wiebe, & AB Musgrove. 2015. Nest sanitation in response to short-and long-term manipulations of brood size: males clean more in a sex-role reversed species. Animal Behaviour 104:137–143 DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.03.2014

Gow EA, & KL Wiebe. 2015. Northern flicker mates foraging on renewing patches avoid competition not by separate niches but by segregation. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69:101–108 DOI: 10.1007/s00265-014-1822-8

Gow EA, KL Wiebe, & J Foxe. 2015. Cavity use throughout the annual cycle of a migratory woodpecker revealed by geolocators. Ibis 157:167–170 DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12206

Gow EA, & KL Wiebe. 2014. Males migrate farther than females in a differential migrant: an examination of the fasting endurance hypothesis. Royal Society Open Science 1:140346 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.140346

Gow EA, & KL Wiebe. 2014. Responses by central-place foragers to manipulations of brood size: Parent flickers respond to proximate cues but do not increase work rate. Ethology 120:881–892 DOI: 10.1111/eth.12259

Gow EA, & KL Wiebe. 2014. Determinants of parental care and offspring survival during the post-fledging period: males care more in a species with partially reversed sex roles. Oecologia 175:95–104 DOI:10.1007/s00442-014-2890-1

Gow EA, & KL Wiebe. 2014. Survival and habitat selection by fledgling northern flickers in a fragmented forest landscape. Journal of Wildlife Management 78:273–281 DOI:10.1002/jwmg.657

Gow EA, KL Wiebe, & RJ Higgins. 2013. Lack of diet segregation by male and female northern flickers foraging on ants. Journal of Field Ornithology 84:262−269 DOI:10.1007/s10336-012-0923-2

Wiebe KL, & EA Gow. 2013. Choice of foraging habitat by northern flickers reflects changes in availability of their ant prey linked to ambient temperature. Ecoscience 20:122−130 DOI:10.2980/20-2-3584

Gow EA, & BJM Stutchbury. 2013. Understanding sex differences in parental effort in a migratory songbird: examining a sex specific tradeoff between reproduction and molt. Condor 115:640−649 DOI:10.1525/cond.2013.120091

Gow EA, & BJM Stutchbury. 2013. Within-season nesting dispersal and molt dispersal are linked to habitat shifts in a Neotropical migratory songbird. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125:696−708 DOI:10.1676/13-015.1

Gow EA, AB Musgrove, & KL Wiebe. 2013. Brood age and size influence sex-specific parental provisioning patterns in a sex-role reversed species. Journal of Ornithology 154:525−535 DOI:10.1007/s10336-012-0923-2

Gow EA, BJM Stutchbury, TW Done, & TK Kyser. 2012. An examination of stable hydrogen isotope (δD) variation in adult and juvenile feathers from a migratory songbird. Canadian Journal of Zoology 90:585−594 DOI:10.1139/Z2012-024

Gow EA, & KL Wiebe. 2012. An unusually synchronous double brooding attempt by a northern flicker pair. Wilson Journal Ornithology 124:389−392 DOI:abs/10.1676/11-158.1

Gow EA, TW Done, & BJM Stutchbury. 2011. Radio-tags have no behavioral or physiological effects on a migratory songbird during breeding and molt. Journal of Field Ornithology 82:193−201 DOI:10.1016/j.ygcen.2011.01.006

Stutchbury BJM, EA Gow, TW Done, M MacPherson, JW Fox & V Afanasyev. 2011. Effects of post-breeding moult and energetic condition on timing of songbird migration into the tropics. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 278:131−137 DOI:10.1098/rspb.2010.1220

Done T, EA Gow, & BJM Stutchbury. 2011. Corticosterone stress response and plasma metabolite levels during breeding and molt in a free-living migratory songbird, the wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). General and Comparative Endocrinology 171:176−182 DOI:10.1016/j.ygcen.2011.01.006

Stutchbury BJM, SA Tarof, TW Done, EA Gow, PM Kramer, J Tautin, JW Fox, & V Afanasyev. 2009. Tracking long-distance songbird migration by using geolocators. Science 323:896 DOI:10.1126/science.1166664

Gow EA, NL Michel. 2016. Ornithological Literature: ‘The birds of Costa Rica, a field guide. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 128:210–211

Gow EA, RR Germain, J Krippel, & P Arcese. 2015. Recent Literature: “Climate change and birds: Impacts and Conservation Responses”. Journal of Field Ornithology 86:84–88 DOI: 10.111/jofo.12092

Evans M, EA Gow, RR Roth, MS Johnson, & TJ Underwood. 2011. Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), The Birds of North American Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; From the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/246

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