Allison Mistakidis uses a spectrophotometer to measure the plumage colour of a museum specimen of a warbler.Allison Mistakidis, a former Master’s student in the laboratory of biology professor Stéphanie Doucet, uses a spectrophotometer to measure the plumage colour of a museum specimen of a warbler.

Geographic overlap promotes different feather colours, but similar songs, in birds

Animals exhibit a tremendous diversity of colours and sounds, but closely related species often have similar characteristics, such as leopards and jaguars. When related species occur in the same geographic area, however, they may instead possess distinctive features that serve as signals of species identity.

A new investigation, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, explores how geographic overlap might impact two common bird characteristics: feather colour and song. The University of Windsor research team measured the feather colour and songs of 90 species of North American warblers. The results show that birds with more overlap in geographic range exhibit greater differences in feather colouration, but more similar songs.

“Our research is unique because we demonstrate that overlapping geographic ranges impacts how two different signals evolve,” says Rick Simpson, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Windsor and the lead author of the study.

According to Stéphanie Doucet, the senior author of the study: “our findings suggest that feather colouration is likely an important signal of species identity in North American warblers.”

The authors used state-of-the-art instruments to measure the feather colour of specimens from natural history museums for each of the 90 species of songbirds. Next, they measured the acoustic features of the songs of these same species. The team of five researchers then compared plumage and song features to the geographic ranges of the birds.

“We were surprised to find that bird songs were more similar when two species had highly overlapping ranges,” said biology professor Dan Mennill, who contributed his bioacoustic expertise to the investigation. “Bird species with highly overlapping ranges have more similar songs even though their feather colours are different. We speculate that different forces shape the evolution of song, such as selection for enhanced transmission through similar habitats.”

Another interesting finding from this new study concerns crowding. When more species of warbler co-occur in a geographic area, it is harder for them to stand out from one another.

“Think about trying to distinguish yourself from other people at a costume party. If there are only a few people in that room, it is easy to stand out! But if that party is very crowded, you are more likely to have a similar costume to someone else,” explained Dr. Simpson.

“These bird signals work the same way. For example, there are only so many colours in the palette of bird feathers, and if there are 30 or more species all in the same geographic area, it is much harder for them to appear different than if there are only two or three species.”

Overall, the study illustrates the complex ways in which bird communication signals can be affected by overlap in their geographic range. This work by Simpson and his colleagues provides important new insight into how bird signals, especially feather colour, became so diverse.

Andrew Templer, Victoria PedriBusiness professor Andrew Templer and MBA candidate Victoria Pedri are inaugural recipients of the Sue Skrobiak Award for Excellence and Sue Skrobiak Scholarship, respectively.

Educator and industry partners honoured for contributions to Odette MBA

The Odette School of Business announced the winners of the first Sue Skrobiak Awards for Excellence and Sue Skrobiak Scholarship in a streamed ceremony Tuesday, Jan. 12. A video of the event is available here.

Sue Skrobiak Awards for Excellence

The Sue Skrobiak Award for Excellence is intended for an individual or organization that has made a substantial contribution over a sustained period of time to the Odette MBA program.

Andrew Templer, a long-time Odette faculty member, was presented with the Sue Skrobiak Award for Excellence for his impact on the academic and experiential components of the MBA.

In announcing the award, professor Gerry Kerr noted: “Andrew was an ongoing and enthusiastic advocate of combining cutting-edge classroom education with exposure to the world of work, and he did not shy from innovation. As someone who worked day-by-day with Sue for years, I am convinced that she would regard Andrew as a fitting recipient as well.”

Presenting the award to Dr. Templer was faculty colleague Martha Reavley. Her nomination letter explains his positive presence in Odette: “He was a mentor to many. He shared and reflected Sue’s values and worked tirelessly to ensure that we created an environment where students and faculty could thrive.”

In accepting the award, Templer spoke of “the astonishing legacy left by Sue,” and noted: “I feel humbled to be included in her story.”

FCA Canada was also presented with the Sue Skrobiak Award for Excellence for decades of interaction with the Odette MBA program. In announcing the award, marketing professor Dave Bussière highlighted the company’s contributions, including hiring graduating MBAs, co-op students, sponsoring MBA events and competitive teams, providing guest speakers, and more than a decade of participation in the Odette MBA Apex Corporate Partner Program.

FCA Canada president David Buckingham accepted the award, explaining it was important to the company as a demonstration of “our long history of multi-faceted collaboration” that helps develop the next generation of leader.

Also speaking for FCA Canada was Jacqueline Oliva, head of human resources, who noted that there is a two-way relationship in “the valuable opportunities that we provide to the students as well as the many contributions that they provide to FCA.”

Manager of retail incentives Rama Pantula (MBA 2001) and forecast and consolidation analyst Robert Costa (BSc 2015, MBA 2017) spoke of the importance of the connection between the two organizations and of their memories of Skrobiak.

Sue Skrobiak Scholarship

The scholarship recognizes an MBA student who personifies the spirit of Sue Skrobiak. Victoria Pedri (MBA 2021) is the inaugural recipient.

In presenting the scholarship, MBA director Kent Walker noted that Pedri was able to maintain academic excellence while overcoming adversity outside the classroom. He also spoke of her commitment to the community: “She led an event that raised over $7,000 for the Black Women in Motion charity based out of Toronto. She also organized an event called the Hygiene Heist which collected almost 16,000 hygiene products that were donated to five organizations across Windsor-Essex.”

Pedri’s remarks highlighted the importance of resilience.

“2020 reminded us that although we have a great deal of power over our lives, there are some things we simply cannot control,” she said. “There was a point during the MBA that while I was adjusting to online classes, I also had a three-year old at my feet, was pregnant, and battling COVID.”

Dog wearing blue and gold bowtieShare photos of your pet showcasing UWindsor spirit for a chance to win a Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Speaker.

Spirit campaign hosting the purr-fect contest to kick off the winter term

Today is the first Windsor Wednesday of the winter term, and to celebrate the #UWinProud campaign is bringing back its UWin Proud Pets contest. Students, staff, and faculty are invited to share photos of their pets showcasing UWindsor spirit for a chance to win a Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Speaker.

Submissions will be accepted now through Jan. 19 with the winner being announced on Jan. 20 via the Office of Student Experience social media accounts (@UWinStudentExp).

“We know that many of you have wonderful pets at home that are keeping you company while you study or work remotely,” says Sarah Hébert, communications assistant in the Office of Student Experience. “For some of us, our pets have become our comfort, helping us cope in a stressful time. Now it is time to let them shine.”

In addition to the UWin Proud Pets contest, the UWin Proud campaign will also be sponsoring giveaways during the Windsor Wednesday Show taking place at noon today, with a special Campus Bookstore coupon code to be released live during the show.

Members of the campus community are encouraged, as always, to wear blue and gold to showcase their UWindsor spirit wherever they may be.

Kang Lee of OISEKang Lee will explore “Academic Cheating in Early Childhood and How to Reduce It” in a public presentation Thursday.

Online colloquium to address academic cheating in early childhood

“Academic Cheating in Early Childhood and How to Reduce It” is the subject of an online colloquium Thursday, Jan. 14.

Presented by Kang Lee, professor and Canada Research Chair in Moral Development and Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the event is presented by the Department of Psychology and open to the public.

Dr. Lee has used behavioural and neuroscience methods to examine the emergence and development of social cognition and social behaviour for over two decades.

To receive a link to his Zoom presentation, contact professor Patti Fritz at