Robert Gibson
Robert Gibson

D.Phil. University of Sussex, 1978
Contact Information
429 Manter Hall


Research Interests

My research interests lie at the interface of animal behavior, ecology and evolutionary biology. I work mostly on birds and in the field, and use a variety of analytical approaches appropriate to the question at hand. Lek mating behavior was a focus of long term field studies of greater sage-grouse in eastern California from 1981-2001. Leks are clusters of territorial males visited by females for mating and have been a focus for debate about the nature of sexual selection due to the extraordinary opportunities they provide for female choice and reproductive competition among males. The sage-grouse project undertook major studies of both the mechanisms of sexual selection and factors promoting social courtship display. As a spinoff, additional studies examined conservation-related questions. Since moving to UNL, I have been studying two other species of lekking grouse (greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse) at the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge in the sand hills of northern Nebraska. This work initially examined factors promoting mixed-species lek formation. Recent or ongoing projects investigate (i) the evolution of visual skin displays using reflectance spectroscopy and photon capture modeling of visual perception, and (ii) stress-related physiological costs of courtship display.


Gibson R.M. and Bachman G.C. (in review). Sexually-selected reduction and enhancement of the ultraviolet component of avian skin displays. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

Gibson, R.M., Bleich, V.C., McCarthy, C.W. & Russi, T.L. 2010 (in press). Recreational hunting lowers population size in greater sage-grouse. Studies in Avian Biology

Stiver, J.R., Apa, A.D., Remington, T.E. & Gibson, R.M. 2008. Polygyny and female breeding failure lower effective population size in the lekking Gunnison sage-grouse. Biological Conservation 141: 47-481.

Gibson, R.M., Pires, D., Semple, K.E. & Wayne, R.K. 2005. Microsatellite analysis shows that greater sage-grouse leks are not kin groups. Molecular Ecology 14: 445-459.

Aspbury, A.S. and Gibson, R.M. 2004. Long range visibility of greater sage-grouse leks: a GIS-based analysis. Animal Behaviour 67: 1128-1132.

Boyko, A.R., Gibson, R.M. & Lucas, J.R. 2004. How predation risk affects the temporal dynamics of avian leks: greater sage-grouse vs. golden eagles. American Naturalist 163: 154-165.

Gibson, R.M., Aspbury, A.S. and McDaniel. L. 2002. Active formation of mixed-species grouse leks: a role for predation in lek evolution? Proc Roy Soc B. 269: 2503-2508.

Gibson, R.M. 2002. Leks. In: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Evolution, M. Pagel (ed.), 612-615. Oxford University Press.

Semple, K.E., Wayne, R.K. and R.M. Gibson. 2001. Microsatellite analysis of female mating behavior in lek-breeding sage grouse. Molecular Ecology 10: 2043-2048.

Langen, T. A. and R.M. Gibson. 1998. Sampling and information acquisition by western scrub jays, Aphelocoma californica. Animal Behaviour 55:1245-1254.

Gibson, R.M. and Langen, T.A. 1996. How do animals choose their mates? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 11: 468-470.

Gong, A. and Gibson, R.M. 1996. Reversal of a female preference after visual exposure to a predator in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). Animal Behaviour 52: 1007-1015.

Gibson R.M. 1996. Female choice in sage grouse: the roles of attraction and active comparison. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 39: 55-59.

Gibson, R.M. 1996. A reevaluation of hotspot settlement in lekking sage grouse. Animal Behaviour 52: 993-1005.

Höglund, J., Alatalo, R.V., Gibson, R.M. and Lundberg, A. 1995. Mate-choice copying in black grouse. Animal Behaviour 49: 1627-1633.

Gibson R.M. 1994. Bringing Darwin up to date. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9:406. (book review)

Gibson R.M. 1994. Telling tails. Nature 371: 295. (book review)

Gibson, R.M. 1993. Ménage à plusiers. Science 260: 374-375. (book review)

Gibson, R.M. and Höglund, J. 1992. Copying and sexual selection.Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7: 229-231.

Gibson R.M. and Bachman G.C. 1992. The costs of female choice in a lekking bird. Behavioral Ecology 3: 300-309.

Gibson, R.M. 1992. Lek formation in sage grouse: the effect of female choice on male territory settlement. Animal Behaviour 43: 443-450.

Gibson, R.M., Bradbury, J.W. and Vehrencamp, S.L. 1991. Mate choice in lekking Sage grouse revisited: the roles of vocal display, female site fidelity and copying. Behavioral Ecology 2: 165-180.

Gibson, R.M. 1990. Relationships between blood parasites, mating success and phenotypic cues in male sage grouse. American Zoologist 30: 271-278.

Gibson, R.M., Taylor, C.E. and Jefferson, D.R. 1990. Lek formation by female choice: a simulation study. Behavioral Ecology 1: 36-42.

Vehrencamp, S.L., Bradbury, J.W. and R.M. Gibson. 1989. The energetic cost of display in male sage grouse. Animal Behaviour 38: 885-896.

Gibson, R.M. 1989. Field playback of display attracts females in lek breeding sage grouse. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 24: 439-443.

Bradbury, J.W., Gibson, R.M., McCarthy, C. and Vehrencamp, S.L. 1989. Dispersion of displaying male sage grouse. 2. The role of female dispersion. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 24: 15-24.

Bradbury, J.W., Vehrencamp, S.L. and Gibson, R.M. 1989. Dispersion of displaying male sage grouse. 1. Environmental determinants of temporal variation. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 24: 1-14.

Gibson, R.M. and Bradbury, J.W. 1987. Lek organization in sage grouse: variations on a territorial theme. Auk 104: 77-84.

Gibson, R.M. 1987. Bivariate vs. multivariate analyses of sexual selection in red deer. Animal Behaviour 36: 292-293.

Bradbury, J.W., Gibson, R.M. and I-M. Tsai 1986. Hotspots and the dispersion of leks. Animal Behaviour 34: 1694-1709.

Gibson, R.M. and Bradbury, J.W. 1986. Male and female mating strategies on sage grouse leks. In: D.I. Rubenstein and R.W. Wrangham (eds.) Ecological Aspects of Social Evolution, pp. 379-398. Princeton University Press.

Gibson, R.M. and Bradbury, J.W. 1985. Sexual selection in lekking sage grouse: phenotypic correlates of male mating success. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 18: 117-123.

Bradbury, J.W., Vehrencamp, S.L. and Gibson, R.M. 1985. Leks and the unanimity of female choice. In: Evolution: Essays in honour of John Maynard Smith. P. Greenwood, P.H. Harvey, and M. Slatkin (eds.), pp. 301-314, Cambridge University Press.

Bradbury, J.W. and Gibson, R.M. 1983. Leks and mate choice. In: Mate Choice, P.P.G. Bateson (ed.), pp. 109-138, Cambridge University Press.

Gibson, R.M. and Jewell, P.A. 1982. Semen quality, female choice and multiple mating in domestic sheep: a test of Trivers' sexual competence hypothesis. Behaviour 80: 9-31.

Gibson, R.M. 1980. Optimal prey-size selection by Three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus: a test of the apparent size hypothesis. Zeitschrift fuer Tierpsychologie 52: 291-307.

Gibson, R.M. and Guinness, F.E. 1980. Differential reproduction among red deer Cervus elaphus stags on Rhum. Journal of Animal Ecology 49: 199-208.

Gibson, R.M. and Guinness, F.E. 1980. Behavioral factors affecting male reproductive success in red deer Cervus elaphus. Animal Behaviour 28: 1163-1174.

Clutton-Brock, T.H., Albon, S.D., Gibson, R.M. and Guinness, F.E. 1979. The logical stag: adaptive aspects of fighting in red deer. Animal Behaviour 27: 211-225.

Guinness, F.E., Gibson, R.M. and Clutton-Brock, T.H. 1978. Calving times of red deer on Rhum. Journal of Zoology, London 185: 105-114.


Other publications by my graduate students or postdocs:


Luttbeg, B. and T.A. Langen. 2004. Comparing alternative models to empirical data: cognitive models of Western Scrub-Jay foraging behavior. American Naturalist 163: 263-276.

Caffrey, C. 2001. Correlates of reproductive success in cooperatively breeding Western American Crows: if helpers help, it's not by much. Condor 102: 333-341.

Langen, T.A. 2000. Prolonged offspring dependence and cooperative breeding in birds. Behavioral Ecology. 11: 367-377.

Langen, T.A. 1999. How western scrub jays (Aphelocoma californica) select a nut: effects of the number of options, variation in nut size and social competition among foragers. Animal Cognition 2: 223-233.

Caffrey, C. 1999. Feeding rates and individual contributions to feeding at nests in cooperatively breeding Western American Crows. Auk 116: 836-841.

Caffrey, C. 1997. Female-based delayed dispersal and helping in American crows. Auk 109: 609-619.

Gong, A. 1997. The effects of predator exposure on the female choice of guppies (Poecilia reticulata) from a high-predation population. Behaviour 134: 373-389.