Vocal communication & song learning in birds

Project Description : 

In the Podos Lab, we study a variety of questions related to vocal communication and singing behavior in songbirds. Right now, we're working on a project with swamp sparrows in the lab to explore the process of song learning in males (those who sing to attract mates) and song preference development in females (those who assess songs when choosing a mate). These birds were collected as nestlings during the summer of 2016 from local field sites, and were raised in captivity on campus under controlled conditions. We exposed birds to a variety of song treatments as juveniles to shape their early acoustic experience, and then we recorded birds as adults to assess song learning (male) and song preference (female) outcomes, to try to understand the factors that influence song learning & preference development.

We're seeking eager undergraduates with an interest in animal behavior and bird biology to help on this project in the following ways: 1) hands-on animal care (filling feeders & water bowls, cleaning cages, scrubbing perches, etc.), and 2) assisting with data analysis (listening to audio recordings and watching video recordings to score/tally behaviors of interest). For #1, experience handling and caring for animals in captivity is preferred but not essential - students on the pre-vet/animal science track are encouraged to apply. For #2, experience with audio analysis software (Raven, Audacity, etc.) and/or video analysis software (JWatcher) preferred but not essential - students who have taken Animal Communication, Animal Behavior, and/or Ornithology are encouraged to apply.

There may be additional opportunities to get involved in other lab projects and/or future data collection efforts with these lab-reared birds, depending on your interests & background. Get in touch and we can chat!

Student Ranks Applicable: 

Hours Per Week: 


Credit Hours: 

Honors Thesis: 

Name of Lab: 

The Podos Lab

Contact Person: 

Amy Strauss (graduate student)

Contact E-mail: 


Lab website: