Laura McKinnon

Assistant Professor


   416-736-2100 x 88481

My long term research examines the ecology and evolution of migratory birds. My current research explores interactions between migration strategies and life history traits in arctic-nesting birds. Much of this research involves quantifying the costs and benefits of migration by estimating adult survival, reproductive success, and ecological conditions for birds breeding at various latitudes. I am also investigating how potential reproductive benefits of migration may be threatened by climate change by combining an ecosystem approach with physiological investigations to study the growth and survival of offspring in a changing arctic climate. 

Arctic, behavioural ecology, climate change, evolutionary biology, trophic interactions, migration


Doctorate :

2011: Université du Québec à Rimouski

Masters :

2005: Michigan State University


Research interests:

Ecology and evolution of migratory strategies of Arctic nesting birds; Trade-offs between direct (physiological) and indirect (trophic interactions) effects of climate change on the growth and survival of chicks of Arctic nesting birds; Effects of spatial and temporal variations of trophic constraints (predation risk, food availability on reproduction of migratory birds).


Journal Articles


Peer-reviewed articles (*supervised students)


  • Corkery, C.A.*, Nol, E., and L. McKinnon.  In revisions. No Effects of Asynchrony Between Hatching and Peak Food Availability on Chick Growth in Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) near Churchill, Manitoba. Waterbirds.
  • McKinnon, L., Berteaux, D., and J. Bêty.  2014. Predator-mediated interactions between lemmings and shorebirds: a test of the alternative prey hypothesis. The Auk: Ornithological Advances 131 (4):619-628.
  • MacCullough, K., Nol, E., Pollock, L. and L. McKinnon. 2014. Foraging ecology of migrant shorebirds wintering in coastal Cuba. Journal of Tropical Ecology 30(4): 347-357.
  • Klima, J., Ballantyne, K., Perz, J., Johnson, A.S., Jackson, J.A., Lamarre, J-F., Nol, E. and L. McKinnon.  2013. American Golden-Plover Pluvialis dominica  and Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus longevity records and other old shorebirds from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.  Wader Study Group Bulletin 120(1):1-2. 
  • McKinnon, L., Nol, E. and C. Juillet. 2013. Arctic-nesting birds may find physiological relief in the face of trophic constraints. Nature Scientific Reports 3(1816).
  • Bolduc, E., Casajus, N., Legagneux, P., McKinnon, L., Gilchrist, G.H., Leung, M., Morrison, R.I.G., Reid, D. Smith, P.A., Buddle, C.M. and J. Bêty. 2013. Terrestrial arthropod abundance and phenology in the Canadian Arctic; modeling the variation in resources available to arctic-nesting insectivores. Canadian Entomologist 45 (SI2): 155-170.
  • McKinnon, L., Berteaux, D., Gauthier, G. and J. Bêty. 2013. Predator-mediated interactions between preferred, alternative and incidental prey.  Oikos 122(7): 1042-1048. Citations: 9.
  • Legagneux, P., Gauthier, G., Berteaux, D., Bêty, J., Cadieux, M-C., Bilodeau, F., Bolduc, E., McKinnon, L., Tarroux, A., Therrien, J-F., Morissette, L. and C.J. Krebs.  2012. Disentangling trophic relationships in a High Arctic tundra ecosystem through food web modeling. Ecology 93(7): 1707-1716. 
  • McKinnon, L., Picotin, M.*, Bolduc, E., Juillet, C. and J. Bêty. 2012. Timing of breeding, peak food availability and effects of mismatch on chick growth in High-Arctic-nesting birds. Canadian Journal of Zoology 90:961-971. Citations: 22.
  • Gauthier, G., Berteaux, D., Bety, J., Tarroux, A., Therrien, J-F., McKinnon, L., Legagneux, P., and M.C. Cadieux. 2011. The arctic tundra food web in a changing climate and the role of exchanges between ecosystems. EcoScience 18(3): 223-235. 
  • McKinnon, L., Smith, P.A., Nol, E., Martin, J-L., Doyle, F., Abraham, K.F., Gilchrist, H.G., Morrison, R.I.G. and J. Bêty. 2010. Suitability of artificial nests. Science 328 (5974):46-47. 
  • McKinnon, L., Smith, P.A., Nol, E., Martin, J-L., Doyle, F., Abraham, K.F., Gilchrist, H.G., Morrison, R.I.G. and J. Bêty.  Lower predation risk for migratory birds at high latitudes. Science 327: 326-327. 
  • McKinnon, L., Gilchrist, H.G. and D. Fifield. 2009. A pelagic seabird survey of Arctic and sub-Arctic waters during fall. Marine Ornithology 37:77-84. 
  • McKinnon, L. and J. Bêty. 2009. Effect of camera monitoring on survival rates of High-Arctic shorebird nests. Journal of Field Ornithology 80(3): 280-288. 
  • McKinnon, L., Gilchrist, H.G., and K.T. Scribner. 2006. Genetic evidence for kin-based female social structure in common eiders (Somateria mollissima).  Behavioral Ecology 17: 617-621.