Welcome Sheela Turbek - new SE

Submitted by Michi on 26 July 2023.

The JAB Editorial Board is happy to welcome Sheela Turbek as a new subjector editor!

Keywords: population genomics, speciation, seasonal migration, climate change, conservation

Personal websitehttps://sites.google.com/rams.colostate.edu/ruegglab/people#h.2xh5trr67jmo


1. What's your main research focus at the moment?

My current research uses genomic tools to better understand how migratory birds are responding to environmental change and how we can effectively allocate limited conservation resources to protect vulnerable avian populations. Through collaborations with government agencies, nonprofits, and academic institutions, I am working to collect samples from threatened Neotropical migrants across their breeding and wintering grounds. This information can then be used to identify genetically distinct breeding populations, map population-specific migratory patterns, and assess indicators of genetic health. Ultimately, I hope to integrate this information with data on avian density, risk of land conversion, climate change, and other factors to inform decision support tools aimed at prioritizing conservation efforts across the annual cycle.

2. Can you describe your research career? Where, what, when?

I obtained my PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder in the United States in 2021. My dissertation broadly focused on the role of behavioral and phenotypic traits in the generation of avian biodiversity. Through this research, I combined behavioral experiments with genomic data to investigate the traits maintaining species boundaries in a recent radiation of endangered grassland birds in South America. In addition, I used animal-borne tracking devices to study the role of seasonal migration in genetic divergence and reproductive isolation between subspecies of barn swallow. Since graduating, I have been working as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology with Kristen Ruegg at Colorado State University. Our research group leverages genomic tools to address basic and applied questions in ecology and evolutionary biology in order to promote migratory bird conservation.

3. How come that you became a scientist with an interest in birds?

I grew up several blocks from a famous Chicago zoo, where I spent many summers volunteering in high school, and have always been fond of wildlife and the outdoors. However, it wasn’t until my third year as an undergraduate student that I came to notice birds. That summer, I had the opportunity to live and work at a research station in New Brunswick, Canada studying a breeding population of Savannah Sparrows that has been tracked since the late 1980s. It was there that I first experienced the joys of following nesting pairs and interpreting their behavioral cues in order to uncover their beautifully concealed nests. After graduating from college, I spent several years working as a field technician on a variety of research projects, primarily in the tropics of Central and South America. Through these experiences, I truly became hooked on understanding the incredible diversity of the avian world.

4. What do you do when you're not working?

In my free time, I enjoy hiking, camping, trail running, and growing all sorts of indoor and outdoor plants. I love nature and spending time outside. In addition, I like to experiment in the kitchen and read both fiction and non-fiction books.