OEB PhD Candidate
B.S., University of North Carolina, 2003
Signal function and sexual selection in swamp sparrow song
My research interests lie broadly in evolution and animal behavior. Specifically, I aim to understand how males indicate threat and how females develop their mating preferences. To do this, I focus on the Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), a species in which females have been shown to prefer songs with high levels of vocal performance, i.e. with comparatively high trill rates and broad frequency bandwidths. Thus, sexual selection by females is hypothesized to push these vocal features to individual performance limits.
In my research I use sound analysis software to manipulate trill rates of recorded songs beyond their natural ranges, in order to test questions about sexual selection and learning. My research addresses the following questions:
- 1. Does vocal performance indicate the level of threat to receivers?
- 2. What factors influence the development of female preferences earning, mate-choice copying, a bias for high performance?
- 3. How does developmental stress affect adult male vocal performance?
- 4. Does male feather color correlate with vocal performance and early experience?