Brandon Hoenig | Postdoctoral Researcher

Brandon D. Hoenig (He, Him, His) | Postdoctoral Researcher | @BrandonHoenig  

My research is broadly focused on using non-traditional, often laboratory-based techniques to better understand how species respond to alterations to their fundamental niche.  While earning my bachelor’s degree in Biology at Duquesne University, I used dietary DNA metabarcoding to reveal how the trophic niche dynamics of native and introduced trout species fluctuates throughout the year; how stream acidification alters the prey composition of aquatic specialist songbirds; and how breeding migratory songbirds partition their dietary niche to reduce interspecific competition.  My dissertation research, which was also performed at Duquesne University, aimed at understanding how methodological decisions can alter our characterization of a species ecological niche.  This work, which was focused on the diets of nestling Louisiana waterthrush, found that the high-resolution taxonomic results returned by DNA metabarcoding often did not agree with the quantitative results offered by stable isotope analysis. However, I also found that evaluating these results side-by-side presented the most detailed understanding of waterthrush diet and offered insights not possible with either technique alone. As a postdoctoral researcher for the RIBBiTR Biology Integration Institute, my current project is to better understand how amphibians achieve resilience in the face of chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd).  Through DNA-based techniques, my goals are to 1) track the prevalence of Bd over time using museum specimens and environmental samples, 2) monitor how amphibian community structure changes in response to Bd invasion, and 3) design tools that allow citizen scientists to take part in this important research.  

Outside of the lab, I enjoy being in nature as much as possible, so you’ll likely find me enjoying the three Bs of life: biking, backpacking, and birdwatching!