I am an evolutionary biologist with a strong background in behavioral ecology. I study the evolution of complex traits, with a particular emphasis on cognitive evolution. I study cognitive evolution at multiple levels (species, population, individual, and [in the future] genome) and how it is affected by multiple selective agents (e.g. sexual selection, social environment, habitat).
For my doctoral dissertation, I studied satin bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) in Australia. Males of this species have one of the most behaviorally complex sexual displays in the animal world, constructing arenas out of sticks decorated with feathers and flowers where they dance in front of females to show off their vocal prowess and physical vigor. I found that males who performed better on a number of cognitive tasks including solving novel problems were sexually preferred by females (smart is sexy!) and males may indicate their cognitive ability through their complex displays.
I am currently a postdoctoral research associate studying speciation in stickleback fish (Gasterosteus species complex). I study recently diverged, and independently evolved, species-pairs of sticklebacks that have adapted to two major ecological gradients (called “limnetic” and “benthic”).