Accessible Navigation. Go to: Navigation Main Content Footer

The Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit

The University of Montana

Andy Boyce - Ph.D. Candidate – WBIO

Advisor - Tom Martin


Natural Science Building - Room 311

Phone: 406-243-4396


Andy ascending canopy tower in Danum Valley, Borneo

Andy ascending canopy tower in Danum Valley, Borneo


2006: B.A. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Background & Research Interests:

I am originally from Rhode Island, but have spent the majority of my adult life in the western US and in the tropics doing fieldwork and studying birds. I have worked for Dr. Martin for 4 years, in Venezuela and most recently, Borneo. I supervised the Borneo project in 2011.  

Generally, I am interested in the ecology, evolution and phylogenetics of tropical birds.  I started out as a fairly fanatical birder, became a truly fanatical traveler and finally added a B.A. in Ecology. I have been extremely lucky that my current work allows me to combine all of these interests!


What factors determine elevational distributions and phylogenetic structure of tropical bird communities?

One of the most striking features of avian distribution in the tropics is the parapatric distribution (i.e. separate but contiguous distributions) of congeners across an elevational gradient. In simple terms, my question is, why is bird x replaced by bird y at 1500m in elevation? Why not at 1000m? Not to mention, why are there more than one species of x on this mountain anyway? It is likely that the answers lie with competition and/or physiological tolerance. The goal of my project is to determine how these factors limit species elevational limits, and if the relative strength of each varies with elevation. To do this I will be locating interaction zones for several pairs of congeners. I will conduct playback experiments at these zones to infer strength of competition and identify the dominant and subordinate species within each pair. With these data, combined with a niche-model for each species and environmental data that I will collect on-site, I hope to determine the mechanisms limiting species elevational ranges.

In a similar vein, I will be conducting bird surveys on two mountains and quantifying the phylogenetic structure of bird communities across different elevations. Previous research has assumed that communities of species that are relatively closely related must be most strongly influenced by environmental filtering. In contrast, communities composed of relatively distantly related species are thought to be dominated by competition. This idea is largely untested and I hope to use experimental tests of competition strength (playback experiments) to partially test this hypothesis.

All of the aforementioned work will be conducted in Kinabalu National Park, in Malaysian Borneo.

Progress and Status:

Hello from Borneo!  I am currently in the midst of my 3rd season of fieldwork here at Kinabalu Park.  I am working on four primary projects including (1) Measuring temperature tolerance of high and low elevation birds using respirometry; (2) Conduting playback experiments to detect evidence of interspecific competition among sympatric and allopatric congeneric species; (3) Censusing bird communities at each elevational band on two mountains within the park; and (4) Gathering blood samples from across two different elevation gradients for gene-flow studies to be done by collaborators.  Most of these projects figure directly into my dissertation.

I passed comprehensive exams this past December, so it's nothing but field work and writing from here on out!

Natural Sciences Room 205

Missoula, MT 59812