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The Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit

The University of Montana

Riccardo Ton, Ph.D. Candidate - DBS/OBE

Advisor - Tom Martin


Natural Science Building - Room 311


Riccardo off coast in Borneo

Research Interests:

My first field site was my Grandmother’s garden.  At the age of 6 I conducted some of the most fun and exciting experiments of my life on vertebrate, invertebrate and humans. I expanded my interests to the nearby river and to the mountains surrounding my town.  I ended up collecting data for my Masters which I received at the University of Padova in Italy.

My curiosity has driven me in 42 different countries of the world. In many of them I have been working and collecting data, thanks to my advisor Tom Martin and to the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit. My attention is captured by the big fundamental biological questions as well as by the small apparently punctual mechanisms and dynamics that shape the ecology of a species. The questions I’m asking are still the same as when I was a kid. Are the answers hidden in a compound stashed inside a cell or scattered around in the confusing variety of life forms that we observe in nature?  They probably lay somewhere in between and the advancement of our understanding of the biological world, comes from reconciling life history theory and physiology.

Birds are a wonderful taxum to test hypothesis.  They show interesting variation in their physiological adaptive traits and in the selective pressures they experience. Often they are a surprising exception in how they tend to differ from other taxa relative to certain fundamental traits such as life span, metabolic rate and developmental rate.  Figuring out the ultimate reasons driving this variation is an intriguing challenge.

Starting in 2009 I have been collecting data on the different metabolic rates of developing embryos for species of passerines in Arizona and Borneo. This project will continue and in the future I aim to have a sharper picture of how certain mechanisms are related to the development and evolution of organisms and birds in particular. Since we live in a shrinking, warming world and I come from the small, crowded country of Italy, I can’t help but consider conservation as a serious priority.

The University of Montana represents a special place. Brains of people here are continuously wondering and sparking ideas, suggestions, and motivations. The interaction with brilliant and productive scientists is key to the advancement of knowledge I started many years ago.

Check out the link to my families Pastry Shop in Italy -

Natural Sciences Room 205

Missoula, MT 59812