About Our Work

Research in the lab is founded on addressing fundamental ecological questions about why animals do the things that they do in nature, and why some of them are in trouble. The questions we ask and the approaches we use to answer them overlap with fields of evolution, behavior, physiology, and conservation biology. We primarily study birds which are the most mobile of animals; many make one-way dispersal movements away from where they were born or where they last reproduced, and frequently, also make major return migrations each year. That mobility has tremendous consequences for all other aspects of their biology. A recurring theme in our work is to understand what selective pressures result in the diversity of movement patterns we see in the wild.

As results of work in both the tropics and prairies have made clear, an important driver of bird behavior, population biology, and physiological condition is the weather. Although we know quite a bit about how small endotherms respond to temperature variation, we have little knowledge of the consequences of variation in rainfall. Thus, another recurring theme of both our tropical and temperate work includes understanding how both short-term storms and long-term variation in precipitation regimes influence animal populations.

I encourage students to develop intellectual independence, so past and ongoing projects overlap with core themes to different degrees. We strive to create a lab environment where people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and aspirations can thrive. We work hard, but value a healthy work-life balance. I welcome inquiries from prospective graduate students or post-docs interested in the topics we study and who believe they would fit in well in our lab.

Mini march for science, Konza Prairie, 2017