My research interests focus in broad topics of behavioral ecology, from the evolution of behavioral diversity and behavioral adaptations to the developmental and physiological causes of particular behaviors. In particular I am interested in animal communication, using birds as a model system, and most of my research has addressed this topic.
My undergraduate thesis at UNAM, Mexico addressed the vocal displays of a suboscine bird, the vermillion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), during territorial defense. Later I worked as a field assistant of Dr. Christopher Templeton studying the duetting behavior of the happy wren (Pheugopedius felix). As many, I became very interested in this striking behavior, thus after joining the Searcy lab in 2011, I decided to address several unanswered questions regarding these coordinated vocalizations.
In contrast to the popularity of functional studies, the ontogeny of duets has largely been ignored. In part, it has been assumed that, at least in the passerine duetting species (e.g. Thryothorus wrens, Mann et al., 2009) repertoire acquisition should not differ from the non duetting species (i.e. learned repertoires, Hall, 2009). However, it is unknown if the two key aspects of duets (i.e. temporal precision and duet codes) are learned. Furthermore, some species possess sex-specific repertoires (e.g. plain wren, Mann et al., 2003) and it has not been addressed whether each sex possess a predisposition to learn their own sex songs.
I am currently studying the ontogeny of duetting behavior and sex-specific song repertoires in plain wrens (Cantorchilus modestus zeledoni). My research takes place at La Selva (OTS Field Station), Costa Rica. I have three ongoing field studies in which I assess the development of precise coordination, duet codes and tutor choice during early stages of plain wrens’ lives. Also a third field project addresses the flexibility of duet codes in adults.