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Jackass Penguin, Cape Town, South Africa


Prospective Students


We hope to take on additional graduate students starting in either spring or fall 2020.

Please note: I am currently unable to take on international students unless they have fellowship support already in place.

Graduate work in our lab is intense - we seek extremely motivated students who have demonstrated an ability to take projects from beginning to end and who have a passion for understanding nature.

Students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies should email me with a resume or cv, a brief description of their graduate project interests, and a university transcript (unofficial is fine).

Here are a few potential graduate projects that we hope to pursue:

(1) Does adaptation to the cold compromise competitive ability in Nicrophorus carrion beetles?
Based on Jill Wettlaufer's graduate work, we now know that the early season specialist, N. sayi, can stay active at cold temperatures, even at temperatures below freezing. Later in the spring, however, N. sayi loses most carcasses (their key resource for reproduction) to N. orbicollis. Size determines who wins in aggressive contests, but N. orbicollis is not much larger, on average, than N. sayi. Instead, N. orbicollis is much more abundant, and thus the largest individual coming to claim a carcass is more likely to be N. orbicollis. Does cold tolerance compromise abundance in N. sayi?

(2) Cryptic species of Nicrophorus beetles?
Based on Kevin Burke’s preliminary barcoding, we have evidence consistent with a cryptic, undescribed species of Nicrophorus occurring at our study site. The proposed work would test this possibility using genetics, morphometrics, and breeding experiments.

(3) Reinforcement, sexual selection, and the evolution of diverse ornamentation
Pairing or hybridizing with the wrong species can be costly. These costs can favour the evolution of divergent signals (reinforcement) that help individuals to mate within the same species. In species with strong sexual selection (e.g., hummingbirds, birds-of-paradise), we might expect reinforcement to interact with sexual selection to influence the diversification of signals and ornaments. This project would test this idea across bird families with strong sexual selection.

(4) Ecology, evolution and behaviour of closely related sparrows
Closely related species commonly share ecological traits, preferences, and resources simply because they shared a recent common ancestor. Preliminary work suggests that the closely related Song and Swamp sparrows interact in complex ways, and may suffer costs of living together. This project would examine how Song and Swamp sparrows influence each other’s behaviour and ecology, and testing for fitness costs associated with co-occurrence.









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