Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Ms J.M. (Morgan) Brown MSc

PhD Candidate
  • Faculty of Science
  • Visiting address
    Science Park A
    Science Park 904  Room number: C4.165
  • Postal address:
    Postbus  94248
    1090 GE  Amsterdam

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in how animals decide when and where to move. I started learning how to band birds in 2011 at Long Point Birds Observatory. Actually seeing birds up close and 'in the hand', I was immediately amazed by how such a seemingly delicate creature could fly thousands of kilometres through an unknown landscape and back each year. Since that moment, I have been trying to understand how they accomplish this feat.

My research integrates advanced tracking technologies, animal behaviour, and physiological measurements, to understand the short- and long-term consequences of movement decisions. I am interested in movement on a variety of scales, from fine-scale flight adjustments in response to meteorlogical conditions and regional-scale routes selection, up to full annual cycle movement strategies. My past and current research focuses on avian systems.

Current Project

My PhD focuses on the energetic consequences of different lifestyles in a generalist seabird. Lesser Black-backed Gulls demonstrate a wide variety of migration strategies – with individuals from a single breeding colony overwintering anywhere from the UK, to as far south as west Africa. One component of this project will be quantifying time and energy invested into flight throughout the annual cycle for the various strategies. Part of this will include quantifying the energetic costs of different flight modes (flapping versus soaring flight) and determining how much energy can be saved through fine-scale behavioural adjustments (e.g. changes in flight speed and wing-beat frequency), which we can then measure year-round using accelerometer and GPS tracking technology. I am also interested in how plastic these migratory behaviours are – do these birds always use the same migration route, or are they capable of predicting which routes will be optimal given the current atmospheric conditions and adjusting their behaviour accordingly? Finally, I will look at whether differences in how much and when energy is allocated throughout the year influences reproductive outputs in the following breeding season. This project is supervised by Judy Shamoun-Baranes and Willem Bouten.

Research Background

I completed my BSc at the University of Western Ontario (Canada) with an honors project studying whether stopover performance differed between aggressive and non-aggressive morphs of migrating white-throated sparrows. I then completed my MSc at Acadia University (Canada) where my research focused on regional-scale movement ecology of a nocturnally migrating songbird. I was particularly interested in how movement patterns differed between first-year migrants (who migrate independently from parents and conspecifics) and experienced adult individuals. This work presented some of the first regional-scale movement paths of passerines during the post-breeding and migratory periods, tracked using an automated radio-telemetry array.


Morbey Y, Guglielmo C, Taylor P, Maggini I, Deakin J, MacKenzie S, Brown JM, Zhao L. Evidence against sex-specific stopover behaviour as an important mechanism of avian protandry. Accepted to Behavioural Ecology.

Brown JM, & Taylor PD. 2017. Migratory Blackpoll Warblers (Setophaga striata) make non-goal-oriented movements at regional scales during fall stopover: variation with age, natal origin and time of season. Movement Ecology 5:15

Brown JM, & Taylor PD. 2015. Adult and hatch-year blackpoll warblers exhibit radically different regional-scale movements during post-fledging dispersal. Biology Letters 11(12), 20150593.

Brown JM, McCabe BJ, Kennedy LV and Guglielmo CG. 2014. Genetically-based behavioural morph affects stopover refuelling performance in white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis). Journal of Avian Biology 45(5): 522-527.

  • No ancillary activities

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