animal behavior

Individual variation in behavioral plasticity

Behavioral plasticity offers one mechanism through which organisms can immediately respond to changes in their environment. But why are some individuals more plastic than others? What determines the extent and direction of behavioral plasticity? EERREC REU students will study how experience with early-life stress can shape the expression of behavioral plasticity and thus an individual's ability to cope with later environmental change.

Urban birds as biomonitors of neurobehavioral disorders

Human-induced rapid environmental change has created a global pandemic of neurobehavioral disorders, with industrial compounds and pesticides as a root cause. Urban-dwelling birds have the potential to serve as powerful biomonitors that reveal the impact of environmental change due to the presence of factors that may pose both public and wildlife health concerns. REU students will seek to understand how human-induced pollution affects rock dove (Columba livia) neurobiology and reproductive endocrinology.

Bird communication and traffic noise

Communication plays a central role in the lives of animals, allowing them to defend territories, find mates, and coordinate with offspring and group members. To be effective, animal signals must be detectable in the acoustic, visual, vibratory, and chemical environment in which they are used. Signals may lose their efficacy if the environment changes rapidly due to industrial and urban developments, which may favor plastic responses by individual animals or rapid evolutionary change.