Darwin b-day field trip

In honor of Darwin’s birthday, I took my evolution students to a hidden gem in town, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum. This month, they are featuring original documents from Darwin as well as letters to him about evolution (e.g., one from his grandfather Erasmus and one from Alfred Russel Wallace). It was SO cool and my students had a great time! It is in an old building with lots of history and is absolutely worth a visit.


Aloha (bye) Hawaii

I am back in Iowa after another successful field season in Hawaii with a PSA for everyone: conducting fieldwork with the flu is not advisable. It was a rough one. (Yes I did get a flu shot.)

We were only able to collect all the data we needed because everyone in our research group is outstanding! Thanks Robin, Jay, and David for being so amazing–a special thanks to Erica Larson who joined us and “jumped” right in, helping with anything and everything. Thanks for covering for me while I was in bed with a fever for 2 days and picking up slack while I was miserably sick for another 7 days. In addition to sickness, we also had to adapt our research plans to deal with unforeseen challenges like rain and crazy wind almost every evening. Some field seasons are marathons–we walked a little bit but we crossed the finish line 🙂

And here are some pictures of the scenery…Hawaii is beautiful…wow…can’t complain

Freshman share original ecological research with the public

I’m so proud of my freshman in the Intro Bio Inquiry Learning Community. They knowledgeably and confidently presented their original research to members of the public at not one, but two poster symposia last week. Their semester-long research was creative, well-executed, and beautifully disseminated. #thisiswhatascientistlookslike

And here are all of the projects this semester:

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Happy Halloween!

I have had such a blast teaching honors animal communication this semester. Today for class we had a costume party with a potluck while we gave peer feedback on research proposals.


Finished fieldwork just in time

This morning I was greeted by an early snow. Fortunately, we finished data collection for the semester last week. Whew! I’m so excited to see what the students found. All 8 research projects this semester are creative, well-designed, and well-executed. Stay tuned for results …

Interdisciplinary animal communication

This class has been such a treat to design and teach. We are studying how scientists communicate their research on animal communication with some ethics thrown in. The students have been troopers. They are not biology majors, but they jumped in and collected and analyzed data on social behaviors in ducks.

Then this weekend we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the local zoo where we got to help collect data on zoo animals and learn about the enrichment program, which uses the literature to create enrichment resources for every animals (each gets 6 per day!) to encourage natural behavior. Thank you SO much Joel Vanderbush for making this field trip happen!

Field work underway at the marsh

Despite flooding at Nahant Marsh, my intrepid freshman are collecting data for their independent research projects. We have some exciting questions this year like the effect of goat grazing on soil invertebrates, road salt effects on aquatic plants, Mollusk diversity across prairie habitats, and so much more! Stay tuned…


ABS 2019

The Animal Behavior Society annual meeting in Chicago was outstanding! I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the WFAB mentorship program where I met amazing peers. I attended many thought-provoking talks and posters. And I’m so proud of my students! Chris Kopack gave an amazing talk, and Aaron Wikle won honorable mention for his poster about vibrational communication in our Hawaiian field crickets!

I had the pleasure of organizing a symposium about how new animal conversations begin. All of our speakers were wonderful, and I learned so much. Perhaps my favorite part was the co-talk Robin and I gave that included high fives. Thank you so much Gil Rosenthal, Molly Morris, Rafa Rodriquez, Damian Elias, Malcolm Rosenthal, and Brett Seymoure for participating!

I met so many brilliant and fun people–I can’t wait for ABS next year!


This might be our largest field crew yet! We’ve been collecting lots of data across several islands, and I’m so excited for the upcoming papers. It’s been a joy to work with all of the talented graduate and undergraduate students.

We have also gotten to work with lots of local people on this trip including students from Brigham Young University and sisters from the Kalaupapa Convent.

And of course we squeezed in some time for fun!