Keywords: Aves, behavioural ecology, birdsong, coloration, conservation, communication, competition, GIS, interspecific aggression, outreach, misidentification, remote sensing, salamanders, visual perception
I am broadly interested in the ecological and social factors that drive the evolution of female communication. Specifically, I am interested in species that communicate via traditionally male-like traits (i.e., birdsong and ornamentation). To address these research interests, I will be studying bicolored fairywren (Malurus spp.) in Papua New Guinea and Australia.
White-shouldered fairywrens are unique among fairywrens in that females have three distinct plumage phenotypes across New Guinea, ranging from brown (highly sexually dichromatic) to pied to fully ornamented (nearly monochromatic with males). In the field, I will focus on life history characteristics and how this influences competition, land use and movement ecology, variation in coloration and birdsong, and social interactions.
Why do animals fight? The most common (and well-documented) explanation is that animals are competing for shared ecological resources. But what about when animals are not interspecific competitors?
The focus of my Masters research was to document why golden-winged and chestnut-sided warblers of the southern Appalachian Mountains engaged in agonism. This research was pertinent to my research interest because it combined my research interests of coloration and behavioural ecology with conservation, as golden-winged warblers are a species of significant conservation concern.
I used a combination of reflectance spectrometry coupled with models of avian vision to determine that coloration variation between birds should be distinguishable. However, in the field, I tested for fitness consequences of sympatry and found there were negative affects of chestnut-sided warblers on golden-winged warblers. Finally, I used wooded models to test for misidentification and found that warblers engage in interspecific aggression due to mistaken identity rather than competition.
But what are the mechanisms to reduce interspecific aggression? I am looking to start a project investigating agonistic character displacement between warblers across a geographic gradient. If interested (and if you have the means to conduct research on this project as well), please contact me.
Relevant citations: Jones, JA, AC Tisdale, MH Bakermans, JL Larkin, CG Smalling, and L Siefferman. 2017. Multiple plumage ornaments as signals of intrasexual communication in golden-winged warblers. Ethology, 123: 145-156. Jones, JA, AC Tisdale, JL Tucker, MH Bakermans, JL Larkin, CG Smalling, and L Siefferman. 2016. A case of mistaken identity: Understanding the stimulus of agonism between two wood warblers. Animal Behaviour, 114: 81-91. Jones, JA and L Siefferman. 2014. Agonistic behaviors between chestnut-sided (Setophaga pensylvanica) and golden-winged warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera) are unlikely a result of plumage misidentification. Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 126(4):708-716.
How do species that share ecological resources coexist? I am interested in competition broadly, as I believe it plays a large role in ecosystem structure.
My undergraduate research focused on Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow competition. I used historical occupation data for bluebirds and remote sensing to characterise habitat quality. I found there is a tradeoff between physical habitat quality (determined by resources) and social habitat quality (determined in interspecific competition), where bluebirds who settle with high abundances of tree swallows suffered fitness consequences if they also did not preferentially select higher quality habitat. When tree swallows are not present, there is no influence of habitat quality on reproductive success.
Relevant citation: Jones, JA, MR Harris, and L Siefferman. 2014. Physical habitat quality and interspecific competition interact to influence territory settlement and reproductive success in a cavity nesting bird. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2:71.
Additional Research Interests
It is important to note that these are not my only research interests, but they are the core of my biological career thus far. My research interests are not taxa specific. I study birds in general because every major ecological theory can be applied to Aves. However, I am interested in applying all of the above topics (in particular, the evolution and function of coloration) to any taxonomic group (e.g., salamanders).