Information Use in Breeding Habitat Selection
The source-sink concept proposed in Pulliam’s (1988) seminal paper broadened the spatial scale over which ecologists considered populations: local persistence of a population sink may be influenced through the overproduction of individuals from a nearby source population. The same may occur when considering spatial heterogeneity in breeding performance existing at smaller scales, e.g., territories or sites, which occur within patches. At this scale, sources and sinks may also be predicated on information use strategies of individuals. My lab examines these topics empirically and theoretically. Empirically, we have monitored nest-site choices in ground-nesting passerines over the past 18 years at the Cary Inst of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY. Theoretically, I use simulation models of informed agents to determine the role information on population persistence in relation to environmental change.
Social information and Eavesdropping Behavior
My lab examines social information transfer between con- and heterospecifics. In particular, we study predator alarm calls and other signals that are used to adjust individuals’ perception of predation risk and the fitness consequences thereof. Empirical systems include bird-bird (owls, titmice and chorusing passerines), rodent-bird dyads (e.g., chipmunk-titmouse) and alarm calling in coexisting mammals, e.g., grey duikers and bushbuck. My student, Amy Kuczynski, and I found that the transfer of information about predation risk (bushbuck alarm barks) may occur not only between two antelope species (bushbuck and duikers), but also to leopards. Thus predators and their collective prey may be in a carefully crafted game of hide-n-seek played out in time and space choreographed through informational cues. Our larger goal is to map how eavesdropping behavior on con- and heterospecifics plays out at a landscape level.
Phenology and Adaptive Dynamics
My collaboration with Niclas Jonzen and Jacob Johansson (University of Lund, Sweden) combinined game theoretic models of phenology and phenological mismatching with information cues used in breeding habitat selection. This work is unique because it examines phenology within an evolutionary context and explicitly incorporates information (or cues) which guides, in our example, breeding habitat selection. Our work to date suggests that the phenology of information cues, independent of individuals’ timing, may rescue or acerbate the development phenological mismatches. Our larger goal is to bridge empirical and theoretical research through building models that make explicit predictions that are testable in the field.
Veeries, Dusk Chorusing and Communication
My lab studies different aspects of Veery communication. Veeries have a pronounced dusk chorus, which has generally been ignored in diurnal birds. Second, while complex song structure in common in thrushes, veeries also possess a large repertoire of calls. They communicate in frequent counter-calling bouts, which we now known inlcudestype-matching for several calls types. Last, the function of their 'whisper call' (a type of soft calling) remains unknown, but may function in male-male interactions and mate choice.