Research in my lab focuses on the causes and consequences of evolutionary changes in communication systems. Using a colorful group of North American freshwater fish called darters, we ask the following questions: Why does mating communication evolve over time? How does the rate of communication evolution compare with ecological divergence and other reproductive barriers? (Why) Are individuals attracted only to members of their own species? Results of past research suggest that in darters, differences in mating behavior may form the first reproductive barrier between diverging evolutionary lineages. My postdoctoral research in the Hawaiian cricket genus Laupala demonstrated that major features of mating behavior (e.g., male courtship song) evolve very rapidly, and that individuals integrate multiple courtship cues in their mating decisions.
Our current research focuses on behavioral evolution in darters, in order to determine whether behavioral differences form the primary reproductive barrier between species, and to understand why nuptial coloration has diversified so extensively in this beautiful genus.