Give To Wrens

RESEARCH

My research program focuses on the evolutionary, physiological, and behavioral ecology of birds. The model system that current members of the Avian Ecology Laboratory and AEL alumni have used since 1980 is the house wren (Troglodytes aedon), a migratory, cavity-nesting songbird. Because house wrens cannot excavate their own nest cavities, they readily use the 820 nestboxes that we provide on a forested study area 20 km north of the university. My collaborators include Dr. Scott Sakaluk, Dr. Laura Vogel, and Dr. Rachel Bowden, and Dr. E. Keith Bowers.

Many of our descriptive and experimental studies have focused on three major topics:

  • The first is what selective forces shape reproductive effort, including how reproductive costs shape life history trade-offs, how differences in the degree of hatching synchrony influence reproductive success and female allocation of the sex of their offspring among the eggs of their clutch, and how trade-offs between self-maintenance and embryo development influence female incubation behavior.
  • A second research emphasis is on sexual selection. We are investigating the basis of mate-choice decisions by female house wrens, focusing on why females engage in extra-pair matings and how mate attractiveness influences female reproductive effort.
  • In recent years, we have begun investigating questions in eco-immunology, the underlying hormonal controls of the expression of fitness-related traits in nestlings and adults, and maternal effects on offspring fitness.