“I was actually about to take a leave of absence from my Master of Science in Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy program because I was worried about being able to afford tuition and rent,” said Cora Romanow when asked about the impact of her Research Manitoba award.
“My plan was to return in a year after I’d saved up enough to complete the program. I was filling out the forms for the leave when I got the email, to give you an idea how much this funding means to me,” she said.
Romanow’s academic supervisor, Dr. Susan Lingle, encouraged her to apply for the award.
“Cora has a fantastic track record as a researcher, having won poster awards at UWinnipeg and at an international conference, being a co-author on three publications as an undergrad,” said Lingle. “She has excelled in her coursework, mentored several students coming into our lab, and done considerable community outreach. The list is much longer, but I’ll leave it at that.”
When she began her Master’s, Romanow planned to study the mating tactics of wild female mule deer and white-tailed deer. She recorded multiple video interactions with the support of an Alberta Conservation Association grant.
Communicating through movement and posture
While examining the videos, she became intrigued by the mating signals males use when approaching females during mating season. Her research pivoted and she renamed her project Song and Dance: the evolution of visual and vocal courtship signals in male ungulates. She is also diving deeper into her video footage to examine the animal’s movement and posture-based communication.
“This research builds off of my undergraduate honours thesis, which looked at the vocalizations male elk use during courtship,” she said. “I am able to use the video data I collected during my earlier research, along with a lab inventory of courtship vocalizations, to explore the mating signals males use when approaching females during breeding season.”
Romanow has always had an interest in understanding how animals perceive the world, specifically, from an emotional point of view. Being a part of Lingle’s research team has allowed her to gain valuable field experience in this area.
For example, after assisting Lingle in a study into how mammal mother’s respond to crying, their work was featured on CBC’s Nature of Things.
“Dr. Susan Lingle’s lab has contributed to a growing body of research that supports a connection between emotions and the particular types of sounds an animal makes,” said Romanow. “It’s very interesting work.”
The Research Manitoba award is an annual studentship that supports highly qualified Master’s students as they prepare for their future careers.
Romanow is one of two students with UWinnipeg connections to receive this funding in 2020. Jarrad Perron, who studies at UWinnipeg and UManitoba, under the supervision of UWinnipeg Physics Professor Dr. Melanie Martin, has also received funding.