CURRENT INTERESTS

R. H. WILEY / HAVEN WILEY

Latest changes: 10 February 2022

EVOLUTION OF COMMUNICATION

In recent decades my central interest has continued to be . . .
the essential importance of noise
in the evolution of all communication . . .
see Noise Matters (Harvard University Press, 2015),
also a non-mathematical summary of this book,
and subsequent developments.

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 over 20 species of orchids in North Carolina.
whtch 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.

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
(see an explanation of indirect mate choice).

Lekking birds observed since 2014
  • Greater Sage-grouse
  • Gunnison Sage-grouse
  • Sharp-tailed Grouse
  • Lesser Prairie-chicken
  • Greater Prairie-chicken
  • Black Grouse
  • Western Capercaillie
  • Buff-breasted Sandpiper (more time needed!)
  • Little Bustard
  • Great Bustard
  • Bengal Florican
    ... also two might-have-beens until canceled in 2020 ...
  • Ruff
  • Great Snipe

  • PREVIOUS RESEARCH

    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 of sound.

    For field work, we often used the nearby Mason Farm Biological Reserve . . .
    but we also worked at sites located throughout the Americas!