Robert Gibson
Robert Gibson

D.Phil. University of Sussex, 1978
B.A. Oxford University, 1974
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.