EVOLUTION OF COMMUNICATION
In recent decades my central interest has continued to be . . .
the essential importance of noise
in the evolution of all communication . . .
Noise Matters (Harvard University Press, 2015)
a non-mathematical summary of this book
CONSEQUENCES OF DECEPTION BY ORCHIDS
In recent years, I have focused on orchids -- Nature's master deceivers.
Many brazenly deceive pollinators (by attracting them
without compensating them -- at least not fully).
They also exploit soil fungi -- with minimal or no compensation!
Orchids thus rely on deception from birth to death.
Deception is an inevitable possibility for all communication --
so orchids, as the masters of deception, should tell us something about
the evolution of communication in general!
With the help of many people, I have now located
populations of almost 40 species of orchids in North Carolina.
that can be monitored without disturbance.
With some luck I might document aspects of individuals' lives
(such as local distribution, intermittent flowering and leafing,
growth of seed capsules, size and persistence of leaves)
all features that might have evolved as adaptations for deception.
Orchids of eastern North Carolina
currently under nonintrusive investigation
Spiranthes lacera gracilis
Spiranthes ovalis erostellata
... and a few we would like to add!
LEKKING BEHAVIOR OF BIRDS
In the past decade, my attention has also returned to lekking behavior --
especially on expeditions to observe lekking birds beyond the Neotropics --
with attention to males' spatial relationships
and, of course, to any potential for indirect mate choice
an explanation of indirect mate choice).
Lekking birds observed since 2014
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (more time needed!)
... also two might-have-beens until canceled in 2020 ...
For decades my focus has been the complexity of animal social
behavior ... especially communication.
My students, post-doctoral associates and I studied a diversity of problems . . .
long-range vocal communication by temperate and tropical birds
vocal communication in noisy conditions (colonies, choruses)
sexual conflict and monogamy in territorial birds
sexual selection in polygynous mating systems and leks
site-specific dominance in wintering birds
cooperative breeding in tropical wrens
Continuing themes in all of these studies were age-dependent
behavior and recognition of individuals.
Our facilities included up-to-date equipment for recording, display, and synthesis
For field work, we often used the nearby Mason Farm Biological Reserve . . .
but we also worked at sites located throughout the Americas!