Evolutionary Biologist & Behavioral Ecologist
I am interested in how the behavior of animals both shapes and is shaped by evolution. In particular, I'm fascinated by behaviors associated with mating – finding and selecting individuals with which to reproduce is important for nearly all animals, since mates affect the quality and number of offspring produced (aka the fitness of the parents). One scenario in which mating decisions may be especially important occurs when two different species encounter one another and can mate with each other. When they do, this hybridization can have significant evolutionary consequences for each species.
To study hybridization and behavior, I use two species of spadefoot toads that occur and hybridize in the southwestern USA, Spea multiplicata (Mexican spadefoot) and S. bombifrons (Plains spadefoot). With behavioral assays in both the lab and field, I examine the signals used in mate choice between the two species, as well as the consequences of hybridizing for both of them. I do this work as a graduate student in Dr. Karin Pfennig's lab at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. I have previously worked in several different labs, where I explored the evolution and behavior of organisms ranging from cleaner shrimp to lizards to marsh snails. For more about my past and current work, check out my CV, or get in touch.
1. Adaptive female mate choice during hybridization
I am currently investigating how females evaluate different males during hybridization events, and the consequences of those choices.
2. Behavior of hybrids
To study the evolutionary implications of hybridization, I am generating hybrid and backcrossed toads in the lab. With these individuals, I can study different aspects of their behavior, which can have a strong effect on the selective pressures on both parental species.