In this natural history note published in the Canadian Field-Naturalist, colleagues and I describe a “highly anomalous” song we heard while out birding in a marsh around Ottawa, Ontario. The very strange two-note song piqued our interest, and we were surprised to see it coming out of a male Red-winged Blackbird doing a typical territorial display, but sounding not at all typical! We recorded it on two separate occasions- you can listen to what it sounded like here on left, recorded by lead author Brandon Edwards and accessioned in the Macaulay Library. Compare the sound and spectrogram to a more typical song on the right:
In the paper we review the various possible causes for aberrant bird song known in the literature, including malnourishment while young. We speculate that in this case, however, the bird was likely deaf from a young age. Though this is possibly just one idiosyncratic example, this highlights the importance of always being on the lookout for new and strange things around you- each little natural history note contributes to a constellation of data points that can show us how the world is changing or how our original thinking might be wrong!
In September 2021, I made a big move across the ocean to the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST) for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. The IAST, a part of the Toulouse School of Economics, is a broadly interdisciplinary institute with the unified goal of studying and understanding human behavior, evolution, and our place in the world. Faculty, fellows and visitors include Economists, Political Scientists, Psychologists, Anthropologists, Historians, Sociologists, and of course, some Evolutionary Biologists! I’m excited to contribute to and learn from this fantastic community of diverse scholars over the next couple of years in beautiful Toulouse! I will be continuing to work on sexual selection and sexual conflict theory, while also building collaborations and new applications for dynamic social network models.
I am pleased to announce that I successfully defended my PhD dissertation on October 19, 2020! After a leave of absence due to a traumatic brain injury (I’m doing a lot better now!), and then delays due to COVID, I am so, so grateful to have arrived at the point of finishing my doctorate.
At first I was disappointed that it had to happen over Zoom in classic pandemic style, but I have to say that there are several advantages to the increased accessibility that comes along with the format. Friends, colleagues, and loved ones from all over the world were able to attend (far more than would have been able to make the trip to New Haven on a weekday!), and as an added bonus, my public talk could be recorded and now shared here!
Thanks so much to my PhD advisor Dr. Richard Prum for his flattering introduction and to my committee, Drs. Maria Servedio, Suzanne Alonzo, David Vasseur, and Tom Near, as well as to my collaborators on the featured Sage Grouse work: Drs. Gail Patricelli, Alan Krakauer, and Anna Perry, Ryane Logsdon, and Dr. Carter Butts.