Fieldwork and Students

2019-06-05 10.55.49My research has focused predominantly on pre-copulatory sexual selection (bird songs, territorial aggression), but I have always wondered how sexual selection shapes post-copulatory competition for fertilization. Along with IU undergraduate Sam Torneo, we are characterizing variation in avian sperm length and examining its relationship with extra-pair paternity.



CISAB REU student Jace Kuske holding their first tree swallow

From March – May 2019 I conducted a comparative project on the neuroendocrine basis of aggression cavity-nesting species and their close relatives, including tree swallows, barn swallows, robins, bluebirds, and house wrens in Indiana and Kentucky. REU undergraduate Jace Kuske conducted an independent project on the relationship between circulating testosterone and territorial aggression in female and male tree swallows.



Evan photographing jacana nest

From April – August 2018 I investigated the neuroendocrine basis of aggression in sex-role reversed Northern and Wattled Jacanas in Panama with University of Tennessee master’s student Clara Howell and undergrad Evan Buck. Evan conducted an independent project recording jacana vocalizations.



From May – August 2015 I conducted aggression assays across the jacana hybrid zone to test the hypothesis that a competitive asymmetry between species could explain unidirectional hybridization.  I was joined by fabulous Tulane undergrads Gina Zwicky and Hannah Wilson and University of Panama undergrad Pablo Gutierrez


Hannah, Sara, and taxidermic mount


Pablo, Teofilo and his son







From June – Sept 2014 I sampled the Watted x Northern Jacana hybrid zone from Panama City, Panama to Palo Verde, Costa Rica. I was joined by mighty and fearless assistants Jorge Luis Garzon, Lourdes Hernandez, Alisa Wallace, and Aaron Singleton.


From June – August 2013, Tulane undergrad Catherine Rochefort and I conducted behavioral playback experiments across the Puget Sound x Nuttall’s white-crowned sparrow hybrid zone in California. We also assessed the impact of urban noise on song.


Catherine recording song


Noise recording at Golden Gate bridge








In 2012 I worked as an intern and Ernst Mayr short-term fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. I joined Dr. Matthew Miller to collect tropical birds and sample avian influenza across a diversity of habitats. I also began my research on the Northern x Wattled Jacana hybrid zone with field assistants Aureliano Valencia, Jose Alejandro Ramirez, Jorge Luis Garzon, and Elvia Maria Morales.


Isla Escudo de Veraguas

In 2011 I studied abroad at the University of Cape Town and volunteered as a field assistant for Dr. Magdalena Remisiewicz in the Animal Demography Unit. Under the mentorship of Magda and Joel Avni, I learned my first skills as a field ornithology, and studied the population demography of Kittlitz’s Plover in Barberspan Bird Sanctuary.



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