Social interactions play a central role in ecology and evolution of animals. My goal is to link mechanisms of social behavior with evolutionary patterns: What determines the outcomes of particular social encounters, and why does it matter? My research is primarily conducted in the field and my questions are grounded in the natural history of the animal I am studying. I like to consider social interactions in the context of the animal’s entire lifetime: earlier experiences, seasonality, and life history stage of the animal has much to do with how they view their social environment. Moreover, the social environment itself—i.e., the organization of the social groups (or lack thereof) in which the animal lives—sets the stage for how animals should interact with others. Ultimately, these factors influence big evolutionary processes such as coevolution, speciation, and evolution of societies.
Main threads of my research include:
- Elucidating the mechanisms of parent-offspring recognition and how this mechanism affects the process of coevolution between avian brood parasites and their hosts.
- Understanding family dynamics through the lens of life history theory and intrafamilial conflict.
- Studying how predispositions in learning songs and species cues evolve and how these learning mechanisms contribute to patterns of hybridization and gene introgression.
- Using network theory to understand general patterns in social organization.
- Uncovering various aspects of the social lives of migrant sparrows at their wintering grounds