Campus news

Researcher wins Women in Science fellowship

Laura McKinnon, winner of the For Women in Sciene Research Excellence Fellowship

Laura McKinnon studies the impact of climate change on arctic shorebirds.

UTSC postdoc Laura McKinnon has received a L’Oréal Canada “For Women in Science Research Excellence Fellowship” for her work on the effects of climate change on arctic-nesting shorebirds.

Established in 2003, the fellowship program rewards excellence by enabling Canadian women scientists to pursue and expand their research projects. The fellowships are awarded by L’Oréal Canada with the support of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

McKinnon’s fellowship will aid new research she is undertaking in Kenneth Welch’s lab at UTSC—looking at how rising temperatures at breeding grounds may be affecting the shorebirds. With insects hatching earlier due to the warmth, shorebird chicks may be missing out on peak
food availability.

“The summer is already very short to begin with, and it takes time for birds to adjust to changing climate patterns,” she says. “The work I am doing will focus on whether chicks are hatching outside these peak food times and if it’s affecting their chances at survival.”

As an expert on the reproductive and migratory behaviour of arctic-nesting shorebirds, McKinnon focuses on predation, breeding and metabolism to explore how the journey these remarkable birds undertake affects their chances at survival.

“The arctic is such an exciting place to do research because when you arrive for the summer you can experience four seasons in two months or less,” she says. “Not only is it intellectually exciting, but I get a physical rush experiencing the transformation that takes place.”