Elly Knight

PhD Candidate
Supervisor: Dr. Brigham and Dr. Bayne

E-mail: ecknight@ualberta.ca
Phone: 587-989-6107

Research interests
Conservation ecology, bioacoustics, citizen science
Research Topic: Linking Common Nighthawk acoustic signal to habitat components

Understanding habitat associations at hierarchical scales is important for wildlife management and conservation because habitat use patterns may vary with scale and may be influenced by processes occurring at other scales. Despite the importance of multi-scale research, much habitat modeling for landbirds is done at the first and second-order levels of habitat selection (i.e., at the geographic and home range scales). Third-order habitat selection is less common because it requires behavioural data collection to differentiate between habitat components, which can be time-intensive and costly to collect. The goal of my research is to use acoustic signal as a proxy for behaviour, which in turn will be used to differentiate between habitat components. Development of such a proxy would facilitate economical construction of third-order habitat models and multi-scale habitat research for landbirds.

The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) as a species presents an opportunity to link acoustic signal to habitat components because variation in type and rate of acoustic signals are thought to differentiate activities such as territory defense and foraging. Common Nighthawks are well-suited to bioacoustic study because their simple, consistent, and frequent acoustic signals are easy to detect with automatic acoustic recognition software. Furthermore, their crepuscular nature precludes them from detection during diurnal bird surveys, but autonomous recording units (ARUs) can be programmed to record at dusk and night when Common Nighthawks are most active. Results from this project will contribute to the development of bioacoustic survey methods for Common Nighthawks and other landbirds, and to the understanding of Common Nighthawk habitat relationships. The Common Nighthawk is listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act due to steep population declines, and study of the habitat requirements for this species is a prerequisite for conservation.