FEATURED FACULTY MEMBER
Dr. Chris Guglielmo got into birds in New York City – an unlikely location. “NYU was very focussed on pre-med, and I found that the ecology classes – which interested me anyway – were much smaller and more intimate”. Dr. Guglielmo signed up to work at a seabird colony in one of his summers “as much to avoid the suburbs as anything else”, and spending every undergraduate summer watching Common Terns turned him on to birds. Guglielmo knew he was good at physiology, but was interested in conservation biology. “I couldn’t figure out how they came together” he says. “I was reading Aldo Leopold and was really excited about conservation, but it wasn’t until I started my Masters in Wildlife Biology at the University of Wisconsin – the department that Leopold founded – that I realised how physiology fits into that world.”
A PhD at Simon Fraser University on Western Sandpipers allowed Dr. Guglielmo to continue with this integrative approach “I was part of a large team doing behaviour, conservation , physiology and everything else about these birds. It was also a time when interest in the physiology of bird migration was expanding rapidly – a perfect time, place and study species.” Dr. Guglielmo was then a postdoc at UBC and the University of Ottawa, became a Canadian citizen and ended up as an Assistant Professor at the University of Montana. He moved to London 3 ½ years later, and hasn’t looked back.
“There are so many opportunities to do great research here at Western” Dr. Guglielmo says. He has certainly taken advantage of those opportunities, developing several internationally-unique tools to do research on birds, from the FLIER –a fifth-wheel trailer that allows Dr. Guglielmo and his lab members to take the lab to the field, to the Advanced Facilities for Avian Research (AFAR), where Dr. Guglielmo is co-director . Dr. Guglielmo has also recently received a prestigious Discovery Accelerator Grant (DAG) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), awarded to the top 100 researchers with NSERC grant applications each year. Dr Guglielmo is quick to point out that the field of bird migration has a lot of challenges remaining – he encourages enquiries for graduate study from ambitious, enthusiastic students at any time.
Five Questions for Dr. Guglielmo:
When I was growing up, I wanted ... to be Bruce Springsteen! A little later, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I watched so much Jacques Cousteau on TV. The closest I ended up coming was working on shorebirds. Tromping around on mudflats and digging up inverts is pretty close.
My favourite organism is... this is tough, but I would say the western sandpiper. They are great to work with.
My first publication was about ... digestive physiology of ruffed grouse.
My favourite piece of research was ... I can’t single out any particular project that my student’s are doing because I think they are all fantastic and unique. I get jazzed up talking about any of them. For my part, my favourite so far has been my work on fatty acid binding protein in flight muscles of migrating sandpipers. It involved a huge amount of lab and field work in Canada and Panama, and in the end I think I found something fundamental about bird migration physiology. A bird can’t just have a lot of fat, it has to invest heavily in these lipid transporters to use that fat as fuel during flight, and this makes them quite exceptional among animals.
Biology at Western is ... the best department I have ever been in. I love the people and the atmosphere. We have fantastic institutional support for facilities and students compared to other places I have been, and we should get the word out. I just wish we weren’t all so busy all the time and had a bit more time to interact, talk science and have fun.
FEATURED STAFF MEMBER
Almost everybody in Biology passes through Ian Craig’s door sooner or later – whether it is to ‘fix up’ a picture for a publication or to print a poster, Ian’s ‘Digital Imaging Services’ is the place to go. It’s a far cry from music education and geology, which Ian, a percussionist at the time, would have imagined when he was studying for his Honours degree in Music Education at UWO. A series of chance events led Ian to become a photographer, and then to the Department of Zoology (now combined into the Department of Biology).
For 35 years, Ian has provided image services to biologists and others at Western. “When I started here, Alan Noon and I were one of only two photographic outfits on campus [the other was in the medical school], so we often ended up doing other photography”, Ian says. Ian’s assignments took him to the rooftops of most of the buildings on campus, to the air for aerial photos of campus, and often to gala events “where we would be taking photos of the President shaking hands with donors and luminaries.”
In the nineties, Ian led the move to digital imaging. “The writing was on the wall that silver-based photography was on its way out, ... I was awarded funds by the Academic Development Fund, and bought a dye sublimation printer, a drum scanner and a film recorder.” Ian remembers a rapid shift to digital services... and the photography became a minor component (although Ian is quick to point out that he is still available to do things like photograph specimens).
In an age where everybody has a digital camera and photoshop, Ian maintains his edge with “good time management and constant training. I always need to be operating at a high level. My biggest nightmare is that a grad student will walk into my office and know more about the software than I do... that’s when I will know I’m superfluous.” Superfluosity doesn’t seem to be on the cards any time soon, though, as Ian has a busy operation, working regularly with students and faculty from most of the faculties on campus. His latest frontier is moving into 3D animations – a difficult process, but an excellent way to animate and explain difficult concepts in biological systems.
When he gets away (and he does!), Ian spends as much time as he can in the outdoors, skiing in winter and canoeing at other times of year. He does feel that working in Biology has given him a different perspective on the natural world. “I admire the way that biologists can see living things and know what is happening in that system... in the same way, geologists can look at a mountainside and know the story of what went on. There’s something special in that worldview.”
Five Questions for Ian Craig:
When I was growing up, I wanted... to be a musician.
My favourite organism is... Oh. Whales, I guess!
The strangest thing I’ve seen in this job is... Mutant mice with different coloured eyes. Weird fish from the Arctic... [editor notes: given that Ian used to photograph zoological specimens, we suspect this is merely brushing the surface!]
When I’m not at work, I also... Ski out west in British Columbia, Montana & Colorado. My wife and I are also avid canoeists & make regular pilgrimages to Killarney, Algonquin and Temagami.
The best thing about being in Biology is... It’s a stock answer, but the people really are great.
LINKS TO PAST FEATURED FACULTY and STAFF
- Dr. Beth MacDougall-Shackleton and Kim Loney
- Dr. Robert Cumming and Jacqui Griffin
- Dr. Irena Creed
- Dr. Amanda Moehring
- Dr. Brent Sinclair
- Dr. Jack Millar
- Dr. John Wiebe
- Dr. Brent Sinclair
- Dr. Greg Kelly
Check back to this page regularly as we will be highlighting news breaking research/awards by other members of our Biology Department. To find out about other research in our Department please follow the links to individual faculty web sites
This page was last updated on
November 5, 2010
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