Ph.D., Zoology, University of California, Davis (1987)
M.Sci., Zoology, Louisiana State University (1980)
A.B., Biological Sciences, Cornell University (1978)
My research integrates behavior, ecology, and evolution, focusing on sexual dimorphism and plant-pollinator interactions. These two topics seem quite different, yet they nonetheless share a common goal, which is to understand how ecological processes such as competition, mutualism, and parasitism shape patterns of morphology in plants, and patterns of morphology and behavior in animals. Since 1999, I have been studying sexual dimorphism in the purple-throated carib (Anthracothorax jugularis), a hummingbird native to the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. Although the wings and body masses of males average 8.6% and 25% larger than those of females, the bills of females average 30% longer than those of males, one of the most extreme bill dimorphisms of any hummingbird. Moreover, the curvature of female bills is 40% greater than the curvature of male bills. In studies on St. Lucia and Dominica, my students and I determined that this hummingbird is the sole pollinator of Heliconia caribaea and H. bihai, with flowers of the former corresponding to the short, straight bills of males, the larger sex, and flowers of the latter to the long, curved bills of females. On St. Lucia, we found that H. bihai has a second color morph with flowers matching the bills of males, whereas on Dominica, H. caribaea has a second color morph with flowers matching the bills of females. In addition, on both islands the heliconias vary in the number of flowers per inflorescence so that the nectar rewards of all Heliconia morphs are consistent with each sex's choice for the morph corresponding to its bill morphology and energy requirements, supporting the hypothesis that competition and feeding preferences have driven their co-adaptation. Presently, we are studying how Hurricane Maria has impacted plant-pollinator relationships and natural selection on floral traits in this system. Our work has been profiled in Science, Nature, Science News, The Associated Press, The San Francisco Chronicle, Smithsonian Magazine, and The Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year (2004, 2001) and is featured in the Partners in Evolution exhibit in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and in PBS-Nature "Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air" (click on title to view).
I teach Introductory Biology (Adaptation and the Organism) and Ecology, and also offer seminars on Sexual Dimorphism, Plant-Animal Interactions, Fisheries, and Sustainable Agriculture. I believe students are drawn to these courses because they are interested in understanding the world around them, and how humans have modified this world through their activities. Thus, all of my courses expose students to organismal diversity and the observational, experimental, mathematical, and statistical approaches that organismal biologists use to study this diversity. With this foundation, my students and I can then begin analyzing how humans have negatively affected their environment, and the possible remedies for such anthropogenic changes.
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2021).
National Science Foundation Program in Population and Community Ecology "SG: RUI: Pollinator competition and plant competition as mechanisms for evolutionary diversification in two hummingbird-pollinated plants of the Caribbean" (2014).
National Science Foundation Program in Ecology “RUI: Coevolutionary convergence and displacement across a geographic mosaic: Hummingbirds and heliconias of the Lesser Antilles” (2006).
Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellowship. For phylogenetic and geographic analyses of floral dimorphism in Caribbean Heliconia species and sexual dimorphisms in Caribbean hummingbirds. (2006).
National Science Foundation Program in Animal Behavior “RUI: Evaluating mechanisms of natural and sexual selection for the maintenance of sexual dimorphism: experiments on a rain forest hummingbird” (2000).
Science Editor, The Hummingbird Connection (The Hummingbird Society)
Panel Member, National Science Foundation
Elective Member, American Ornithologists' Union
Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
See also: Publications