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Research overview

I use Tinbergen's framework to understand the proximate (mechanistic) and ultimate (evolutionary) causes of elaborate traits in animals.


My work integrates perspectives and methodologies across the fields of sensory ecology, animal behavior, physiology, and phylogenomics.

  • Screenshot 2023-09-04 at 23.33.25

Ongoing Projects

The eco-evolutionary drivers of elaborate traits

Elaborate traits - traits that are complex, conspicuous derivations of pre-existing structures in a recent ancestor - evolve via intense selective pressure, often overpowering ecological constraints.

Using the long hindwing tails of some saturniid moths as a model system, I have experimentally investigated the role of natural and sexual selection pressures in driving this trait.  

Recently, we conducted a macroevolutionary analysis to assess the environmental constraints inhibiting further elaboration of this trait.

The evolutionary principles underlying facultative vs. obligate signaling

Some anti-predator traits are constantly deployed (such as warning coloring), while others are deployed only when an animal is under attack.

In collaboration with a team at STRI, led by Dr. Ummat Somjee, we are investigating the role of large, conspicuous flags of the matador bug as an anti-predator trait.

I am also investigating the role of iridescent wings in flight as an an anti-predator illusion


Understanding how climate change will alter elaborate trait function

Climate change will have many effects on our biological systems. One impact may be on inter-species interactions that are mediated by particular traits whose development is sensitive to environmental conditions.

I am studying the effect of thermal environment on several elaborate anti-predator traits.

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