Russian Researcher at U of G Awarded Banting Fellowship

October 03, 2012 - News Release

University of Guelph researcher Dmitry Kishkinev has received a prestigious Banting Post-doctoral Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to study bird migration.

Worth $70,000 annually, the two-year awards are open to Canadian and international researchers who have recently completed a PhD or equivalent or a health professions degree.

“I am very pleased to be a Banting Fellow,” said Kishkinev, now working in U of G’s Department of Integrative Biology. “It was an honour to have my proposal selected because it’s such a competitive awards program.”

He completed his master’s degree in biology at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, and studied magneto-reception in songbirds for his PhD at the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

“As a PhD student, I investigated how European reed warblers could detect their position, as they fly across thousands of kilometres to their wintering grounds and back home,” he said. “Now working at U of G with integrative biology professor Ryan Norris, who has a great deal of field-based research experience and expertise in animal migration, I hope to help uncover and explain the sensory mechanisms used by migratory birds in long-distance navigation.”

They will study whether white-crowned and white-throated sparrows rely on a magneto-sensitive organ in their upper beak or their smell system for migration. The researchers will outfit the birds with small radio transmitters and track them using a series of automated telemetry towers, equipment funded by a grant to Norris from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

“Tracking free-flying songbirds is really the gold standard for understanding the mechanisms of navigation. I’m extremely excited about the project and very happy we could attract someone of Dmitry’s calibre to Guelph through a Banting Fellowship,” Norris said.

Said Kishkinev, “The novelty of this project is that our hypotheses will be tested in the wild on birds performing natural migratory flight.”

In the past two months, he already has traversed Canada from the North American Ornithological Conference in Vancouver to one of Norris’s field research sites on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.

Kishkinev recently co-authored a related paper published online in the Journal of Ornithology.

Established by the Canadian government to attract and develop the world’s best post-doctoral researchers, the Banting Post-doctoral Fellowships program grants 70 new fellowships each year.

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