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. More recent projects have investigated (i) the evolution of visual skin displays using photon capture modeling of visual perception, and (ii) stress-related physiological costs of courtship display.
- Cowles, S.A. and R. M. Gibson 2014. Displaying to females may lower male foraging time and vigilance in a lekking bird. The Auk 132: 82-91.
- Gibson, R.M., Bleich, V.C., McCarthy, C.W. & Russi, T.L. 2011. Recreational hunting lowers population size in greater sage-grouse. pp 307-315 in: Sandercock, B.K., K. Martin, and G. Segelbacher (editors). Ecology, Management and Conservation of Grouse. Studies in Avian Biology, Volume 39, Cooper Ornithological Society, University of California Press, Berkeley, California.
- 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.
- 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.