Why would anyone study hummingbirds for a living?

I worked as a research scientist for many years, and still see many aspects of the world with a scientific eye. But I don’t “do” science professionally anymore. I closed my laboratory and stopped accepting new graduate students in 2000, although I continued to collaborate with other scientists for several years. Here, I will summarize about 40 years’ research as a series of mini-essays, most of it conducted in collaboration with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting researchers from other institutions.

Rather than trying to be comprehensive, I focus on a few areas of research that were especially significant, either as scientific contributions or in the development of my understanding of science as a process. In some cases, I condense the work of several collaborators who studied the same basic issues into a single presentation, but in each case I will emphasize the human, rather than the technical side of the story. I begin each essay with what we didn’t know at the start of a project, then describe what we did experimentally, what this told us about the hummingbirds, and what we learned from the exercise about doing science. Although the stories are about technically sophisticated issues, I try to make them clear without using technical language.

The work is published either in the world scientific literature or in the form of MSc or PhD theses at the University of British Columbia. For a summary of my scientific background and publications, the names of my collaborators and other bits of formal history, please see my academic curriculum vitae. (pdf; 180 kb)

Following are short descriptions of our research into various aspects of hummingbird biology, beginning with the research I did for my PhD. I will post new essays as I complete them, provide links from this page, and announce new postings on the Recent Events page.

Hummingbird territoriality (pdf; 60 kb)
A revelation (pdf; 68 kb)
An eye-opener about ecology and mathematics (pdf; 60 kb)
The organization of foraging behaviour (pdf; 56 kb)
Spatial memory (pdf; 60 kb)
The evolution of ideas about animal intelligence (pdf; 72 kb)
Spatial association memory (pdf; 68 kb)
• Hummingbird flight kinetics
• Nectar extraction kinetics
• Pollination ecology
• Metabolism
• Hummingbirds vs. nectar-feeding bats