Humans have long appreciated the myriad sounds, colorful displays, elaborate movements and complex scents produced by plants and animals, though they differ greatly from our own communications. These signals mediate social interactions that determine an individual’s survival and reproduction, and this selection ultimately determines how signal traits evolve. I'm intrigued by how animal communication evolves, in an environment with variable and shifting social pressures, ecological conditions and increasingly, human impact. To investigate this, I conduct both multi-species and in-depth single species studies of avian vocal communication, in both urban and unaltered habitat, with the goal of understanding how an animal’s signals evolve in response to its social and physical environment.
My current research on the song function of the Red-backed Fairy-wren investigates the use of vocal duets in different social contexts. This species sings an unusual, overlapping duet that they use to mediate territory interactions with neighbors and lay claim to certain areas for foraging and nesting. In addition to using duets for territory defense, male birds also use duets and other behaviors to mediate breeding interactions, in a way that depends on the social environment each individual male experiences, and these strategies directly affect their reproductive success. Find links to my articles on these topics in publications.