Ecology, evolution and conservation of neotropical and temparate birds
The primary focus of my research is the study of factors that shape reproductive behavior in birds. I am interested in how ecological, behavioral and genetic factors interact to influence the outcomes of mate competition, mate choice and reproductive success in wild populations. I am particularly interested in studying the role of mate choice and male-male competition in the evolution of sexually elaborated traits and the direct and/or indirect payoffs that females (and/or males) get from their choices. To do this, I have used a combination of detailed behavioral studies of marked individuals (field work) and molecular genetic techniques (e.g., paternity analysis using microsatellite markers). Currently, I am using two species as model species to answer these questions: White-crowned Manakins (Pipra pipra) in Eastern Amazonia- Ecuador and Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in Indiana.
The White-crowned Manakin project is part of a larger multi-institutional and collaborative research project that investigates factors influencing male reproductive success and female mate choice in 6 manakin species. Our research takes place specifically at Tiputini Biodiversity Station- ECUADOR. The station is adjacent to the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve in equatorial western Amazonia which has one of the greatest concentration of species diversity on Earth.
A second focus of my research is the study of lek mating systems. In lekking species adult males cluster to display for females. Typically only a few males monopolize most of the matings and others do not mate at all. This leads to the question: Why do males join leks, when their probability of reproductive success is so low? I am interested in studying the evolution of these male aggregations and I am using Manakins (Pipridae, Amazon Rainforest) as my model systems.
Lastly, I am starting a collaboration with Dr. John Iverson to study the mating systems of Painted Turtles (Nebraska) and Allen Cays Rock Iguana (Exumas islands, Bahamas).
Spatial and temporal variation of Birds in the Neotropics (Lic Thesis)