About me


I completed my dissertation in the Karubian lab of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Tulane University, New Orleans in Fall 2022. I studied the intersection of signal evolution, the behaviors that result of these signals, and the physiological underpinnings of these phenotypes in female animals. Birdsong and coloration are my jam.

My dissertation focused on white-shouldered fairywrens (Malurus alboscapulatus) of Papua New Guinea and their sister species, red-backed fairywrens (M. melanocephalus) of Australia. In white-shouldered fairywrens, I explored (1) if the evolution of multiple signaling phenotypes commonly associated with social selection pressures are correlated with an increase in such pressure in allopatric populations, (2) if female ornamentation functions as a signal in female-female competitive contexts, and (3) how females and males behaviorally differ in territorial contexts when responding as a duo versus flying solo. Finally, (4) in red-backed fairywrens, I am interested in how  (mated) male red-backed ornamentation relates to the degree females are aggressive towards same-sex rivals (i.e., how does female motivation to secure higher quality resources influence aggression).

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 seasonally between their ornamented (left photo) phenotype and a drab phenotype that resembles females.
female WSFW song
Female white-shouldered fairywren song (Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea)
male RBFW song
Male red-backed fairywren song (Queensland, Australia)

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. I studied interspecific aggression between golden-winged and chestnut-sided warblers. I found that that interspecific aggression is a product of misidentification rather than 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.