About me

EMFW 2018

I am a third-year PhD candidate in the Karubian lab of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Tulane University, New Orleans. I study the adaptive significance and proximate underpinnings of divergent patterns of sexual dimorphism in Malurus fairywrens.

Currently, my study species are white-shouldered fairywrens (Malurus alboscapulatus) of Papua New Guinea and their sister species, red-backed fairywrens (M. melanocephalus) of Australia. Here, my main objectives are determining the function of female signals (in white-shouldered fairywrens) as well as the exploring the role androgens play in phenotypic divergence, aggression, and birdsong (in both species). One core focus is determining how androgens facilitate the expression of ornaments and determining how this varies between species with fixed ornaments (i.e., white-shouldered fairywrens) and species with flexible expression of ornamentation (i.e., red-backed fairywrens).

study system
Variation in the degree of ornamentation between fairywren species and sexes. Top: In white-shouldered fairywrens (Malurus alboscapulatus), females, but not males, vary in the degree to which they are ornamented; in Western Province (left), females are a cryptic brown (thus, unornamented), whereas females in Milne Bay Province (right) are nearly monochromatic with males. Bottom: In red-backed fairywrens (Malurus melanocephalus), females are a cryptic brown whereas males cycle between their ornamented (left photo) and unornamented (right) phenotype seasonally.

Prior to attending Tulane, I received my Bachelors and Masters at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina under the advisement of Dr. Lynn Siefferman. As a master’s student, I studied interspecific aggression between golden-winged and chestnut-sided warblers. My research indicates that  aggression is a product of misidentification rather than interspecific competition, as is commonly inferred when two species behave agonistically. As an undergraduate, I focused on interspecific competition between eastern bluebirds and tree swallows, with a focus on how bluebirds cope with a novel (to this region), dominant interspecific competitor, tree swallows.


Top panel: Golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) (1) male and (2) female as well as (3-4) two different color patterns of hybrid, Brewster’s warbler. Bottom panel: Chestnut-sided warbler and comparison between warbler species.