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We are interested in understanding the causes and consequences of social information for species interactions from the perspectives of behavioral and community ecology.  Social information that is transmitted within and among species  typically concerns predation risk.  What are the roles of different species in providing information about predation risk to the community? What is the relative importance of different types of information to the larger community?  How do species roles and different types of information change in their importance across environmental gradients? How does evolutionary history affect the production and use of different types of information? What are the consequences in shifts in the social information landscape for top down community processes? Our lab has a number of projects oriented towards answering these questions. We combine natural history with both field experiments and observations and phylogenetic tools to address these questions.


Photo: Olivia Rempel

Heterospecific eavesdropping and its consequences for community-wide communication networks

We are evaluating the relative importance of both alarm and safety information and the roles of species in providing that information in Amazonian mixed species bird flocks. 

We are interested in understanding the roles  to which these flocks influence forest wide eavesdropping networks.  We are collaborating with Dr. Dan Blumstein and PhD Eliseo Parra in conducting this project. We are also expanding this work to temperate systems in the San Bernardino mountains as we begin to explore social information use in mountain chickadee flocks. We are also collaborating with Dr. Eben Goodale in research these topics in Eastern Asia. 

Changes in social information use across urban-rural gradients   

We are currently addressing the degree to which the value of social information changes across urban rural gradients as a consequence of community turnover and the effects of anthropogenic changes to habitat that affect information transmission. We are collaborating with Dr. Eric Wood  from Cal State L.A. as we develop these projects.

Evaluating the roles of biotic processes in determining community stability in the tropics 

We have just started a large international collaboration with Drs. Juan Pablo Gomez (Universidad del Norte, Colombia, Jose Miguel Ponciano and Scott Robinson (Universidad de Florida) and Thomas Valqui  (CORBIDI, Peru) among many others, to understand the dynamics of long term change in an Amazonian bird community. We aim to build upon our initial results to derive methodologies to sustainably and accurately monitor the long term stability of neotropical bird communities in the context of local and global scale processes.

Dietary niche overlap in neotropical birds

To what extent does minimizing diet overlap allow for the coexistence of species in mixed-species flocks. We will be using metabarcoding techniques of fecal samples to address this question.  We are collaborating with Dr. Julie Allen (University of Nevada, Reno) to develop this work.

The role of social information in influencing habitat use, and top-down control in neotropical forests

How does the presence and absence of species that are 'keystone informants' shift habitat use for other insectivorous bird species? Are there consequences for herbivory rates on understory plants with changes in the information landscape?  The first aspect of this work will evaluate shifts in the diets of species in the presence and absence of information providers. 

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