About me

EMFW 2018

I am a third-year PhD student 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.

My main 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 research interest is determining the adaptive significance of female signals (here, ornamentation and birdsong) as well as the exploring the role androgens play in phenotypic divergence, aggression, and birdsong. Additionally, one core focus is determining how androgens mediate expression of testostorone-linked signals in fixed (white-shouldered fairywren) and flexible (red-backed fairywren) species.

Wren Map
Variation in the extent of sexual dichromatism in white-shouldered fairywrens (Malurus alboscapulatus). Left: highly dichromatic populations of Western Province, Papua New Guinea (brown circle). Right: nearly monochromatic populations of Milne Bay Province (black circle). In each bird photo, males are positioned on the left and females on the right.

In red-backed fairywrens (below), I explore the proximate mechanisms underlying within-population phenotypic plasticity in achieving ornamentation in males and determining if mechanisms explaining this are conserved across species (between white-shouldered fairywrens, specifically).

Female (left) and male (right) red-backed fairywrens (Malurus melanocephalus)

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 deal with a novel (in this region), dominant interspecific competitor.


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.