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Lab Projects

This page is a list and a sort of hub, where you can see the projects going on in the Lahti Lab, and from here jump to the relevant people, places, publications, and ideas associated with a given project. As is often the case on this labyrinth of a site, everything is under construction and only blue text will take you anywhere. The main list here is of projects currently underway; see below this list for past (completed) or paused projects. I have not made an attempt to categorize these projects, but they tend to move from the strictly biological to the more social scientific or interdisciplinary, and eventually to outreach or educational initiatives.

 

Cultural evolution in the song of the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

 

Advancing bioacoustic analysis for the study of temporal change and spatial variation

Development of a sound analysis program, FinchCatcher, and accompanying statistical techniques, in order to quantify individual and population variation and cultural evolution in bird song.

Student: Chenghui Ju

A genealogical approach to cultural evolutionary theory

A project to apply coalescent theory, a reverse genealogical approach designed for use with genetically evolved traits, to cultural evolution. By so doing, we can use parameters currently exhibited by a learning population to estimate aspects of cultural evolutionary history, such as the most recent common ancestor of all individuals that exhibit a certain trait today.

Student: Elliot Aguilar

Collaborator: Stefano Ghirlanda

Publication:

Aguilar, Elliot and Stefano Ghirlanda. 2015. Modeling the genealogy of a cultural trait. Theoretical Population Biology 101:1-8

Colonial breeding, egg color, responses to brood parasitism, and trait evolution in Ploceus weaverbirds

Observational and experimental studies of

Students:

Collaborators:

Publications:

 

Measuring behavioral synchrony

The interaction between inheritance and learning in the development of canary (Serinus canaria) song

The completion and publication of studies conducted by the late Queens College Prof. Paul C. Mundinger and his student researchers, based on breeding experiments on canaries over 20 years.

Collaborators: Paul Mundinger; Javier Monzon

Publication:

Mundinger, P. C. and D. C. Lahti. 2014. The quantitative integration of genetic factors in the learning and production of canary song. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 281:20132631.

The ecology of vocal mimicry in the Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

A field observation project on one of the most accomplished of our songsters-- Do they simply copy anything they hear? Are there mockingbird-specific vocalizations? Do mockingbirds in different areas sing different kinds of songs according to what happens to be making sounds?

Students: Jacqueline Milander

Alumnae: Olivia Ferrari and Hannah Pearce recorded birds for us as a summer intern.

Development, function, and gene-culture coevolution of song in the swamp sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

 

See our vocal learning research page, which focuses on the development and evolution of song in swamp sparrows

Students: Khaleda Khan, Cheyenne Ganesh

Alumnae: Maureen Banach, Alison Powell, Lauren Adragna, Sharon Slomovich

Collaborators: Jeff Podos, Dana Moseley

Publications:

Podos, J., D. C. Lahti, and D. L. Moseley. 2009.  Performance limits and birdsong evolution. Advances in the Study of Behavior 40:159-195.

Sexual selection and evolution following species introduction in the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus)

The physics, function, and evolution of blue egg color in birds

Relaxed selection and trait loss in evolution

Evolutionary explanation of human culture and the interaction between moral philosophy & evolutionary biology

The influence of social traits on moral perspectives

A comparative study of moral taboos in West African peoples

Organization and preservation of the work of Paul C. Mundinger

 

The ethnobotany of Janjangbureh Island, The Gambia

An investigation into the local Mandinka uses of plants for food, medicine, magic, and crafts; based on local interviews and compared to the broader ethnobotanical literature for each species.

See the Gambian ethnobotany section of our Outreach page

Student: Seema Choudhary

Collaborator: Baba Jarra is our friend and local expert in Janjangbureh.

Ethiopian flora database

A project to display the wildflowers, trees, and other plants of the Awash Valley, Ethiopia, based on herbarium specimens and photographic images.

See the Awash Valley Natural History section of our Outreach page

Student: Franny Geller

Alumna: Rose Chin-Hong

Collaborators: April Lahti is our photographer; Bruck Tadesse is our web designer

The thought of Richard D. Alexander

The center on the web for the work and ideas of evolutionary biologist R. D. Alexander, including downloadable publications and a discussion board. Located at RichardDAlexander.com.

See the Richard D. Alexander section of our Collaborators page.

The Online Bibliography of Environmental Thought

OBET, the world's largest database of writings on the relationship between humans and nature. 

See the OBET description in the Environmental Ethics section of our Outreach page

Students: Nikki Hanson and Teresa Wu are our programmers; Mark Megerian heads up the solicitation of bibliographic contributors.

Contributors: Our most helpful contributors have been Mark Megerian, Gianna McArthur, William Grove-Fanning, and Liz Vazquez.

Reflections on Great Literature

My blog at greatlit.net, begun in 2014 but based on a website I started in 1998; dedicated to preserving and encouraging the reading of the classics.

Student: Sara Paccione is aiding with background research on several of the works.

Lahti Lab Quizzes

The first of a series of iPhone/iPad quiz apps on various topics is nearing completion now: the first is on birds. These are serious quiz games-- no multiple choice, you have to know your stuff. I created the content, and Abudoula Nulumu is our app developer! Lahti Lab Quizzes will soon be available at the iTunes Store.

 

 

Past or Paused Projects

 

An experimental study of the effect of light on the color of birds' eggs

A survey of ratite egg color