Dr. Brendan Graham has been studying Canadian birds for seventeen years. His research is involved in ecological investigations, and often assists in conservation efforts.
One such project is Graham’s work with the Greater Sage-grouse. These birds are currently considered endangered both federally and provincially. Their numbers have declined in Alberta by 90% since the 1980's. In order to augment local populations, the Greater Sage-grouse Recovery Team have been introducing birds from Montana to Alberta populations since 2013. While individual introduced birds have shown reasonable survivability in their new environment, researchers are unsure if these birds are in fact helping with conservation efforts. Graham’s research is focused on discovering if introduced birds are pairing with local ones, and whether their offspring are being accepted into local populations. By analyzing and comparing the molecular markers in both native and introduced populations of birds, Graham hopes to determine whether conservation efforts for the Greater Sage-grouse have been effective.
Graham is also involved in the conservation efforts for Tufted Puffins. For the past decade, their numbers have been in decline, especially in the southern part of their range from British Columbia to California. Graham is part of a team that is looking at genetic differences in the population in order to identify separate groups of puffins. This analysis will support conservation efforts in the future.
Not all of Graham’s work is focused on conservation. One of his main projects is looking at the population genetics of Canada Jays. Canada Jays show a lot of variation in coloration and patterning and have also shown distinct genetic structure among different populations. Some researchers suggest the different Canada Jay plumage variations (colors and pattern of feathers) may represent different species. Graham is very curious to see if this is true. His research will test this theory by examining the distribution of the three plumage variants and analyzing the population genetic structure in areas where the variants overlap.
Graham received his Master of Science in Biology at the University of Lethbridge in 2011 and received his PhD in Biology at the University of Windsor in 2016. He is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Burg lab at the University of Lethbridge. Over his career, he’s published 15 articles in 12 different refereed journals.