The Nowicki Lab at Duke University



Steve Nowicki

Bass Fellow and Professor

Steve's research explores proximate mechanisms underlying the evolution of behavior. He is especially interested in the structure, function, and evolution of animal communication systems, using bird song as a model system.

Susan Peters

Research Associate

Susan is an expert in the area of bird song learning and development. Her current research addresses questions about the functions of song in adult birds and the effects of song development – particularly in different environmental conditions – on these functions.

Jill Soha

Associate Scholar

Jill's research is focused on comparative study of bird song learning, particularly its mechanisms and functional consequences. Before coming to Duke, she was Curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics at The Ohio State University.

Danae Diaz

Graduate Student

Danae is interested in cognition, communication, and mate choice. She is investigating whether melanin-based coloration serves as a signal of cognitive ability in wild Eastern Bluebirds and the extent to which metals in the envrionment affect this potential signal.

Katie Henson

Graduate Student

Katie is interested in mate choice, sexual dimorphism, and the evolution of avian coloration. Her thesis research is focused on plumage patterns in Estrildid finches and how these patterns function in signalling. In her spare time, Katie is an avid birdwatcher.

Clara Howell

Graduate Student

Clara is interested in sexual signaling, cognitive ability, and brain development. For her thesis, she is investigating whether male song serves as an honest signal of sickness in swamp sparrows. She previously obtained a Masters Degree studying the effects of heat stress on avian cognition with Dr. Liz Derryberry at the University of Tennessee.

Xinyue Chen


Xinyue is a Junior from DKU interested in pursuing Avian Biology research and is currently exploring topics on avian behavior and cognition. She has research experience in bird-window collisions and migratory waterbirds in southeast China. They cannot live without extremely spicy foods and fieldwork but also enjoy bird-related lab work and specimen making.

Sophie Cox


Sophie Cox is a third-year undergraduate majoring in biology with a concentration in ecology. She is interested in pursuing ecological research and conservation work and has a particular interest in the impacts of human activities on biodiversity. She also writes for the Duke Research Blog and spends a lot of time birding.

Emma Gutstein


Emma is a first-year undergraduate student from Chicago interested in veterinary medicine and animal behavior. She wants to pursue a degree in Biology and enjoys performing bird care and digitizing recordings in the lab.

Rena Ouyang


Rena is a third-year undergraduate and pre-vet student majoring in Evolutionary Anthropology and Biology with a concentration in Animal Behavior and minoring in Asian American Diaspora Studies. She has particular interest in questions and research surrounding animal behavior and cognition, as well as the evolution of these traits.

Lab Grad Student and Postdoc Alumni
  Research Topics Current Position
Rindy Anderson – Postdoc/RS 2007-2014 Signal reliability & female song preferences Assistant Professor, Florida Atlantic University
Barbara Ballentine – PhD 2006 Vocal performance and mate choice Associate Professor, Western Carolina University
Martin Beebee – PhD 2003 Sexual selection on multiple song types Martin Beebee Photography, Colorado Springs, CO
Eleanor Caves – Postdoc 2018-19 Visual ecology & perception Marie Curie Research Fellow, University of Exeter
Elizabeth Derryberry – PhD 2007 Mechanisms of song evolution Associate Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Renee Duckworth – PhD 2006 Plasticity in reproductive investment & behavior Associate Professor, University of Arizona
Bill Hoese – PhD 1998 Functional morphology of bird jaws Professor, Cal State Fullerton
Patrick Green – Postdoc 2018-19 Assessment and animal contests Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Exeter
Melissa Hughes – Postdoc 1994-96 Signal form and function Professor, College of Charleston
Jeremy Hyman – Postdoc 2001-06 Individual variation in aggression in birds Professor, Western Carolina University
Silke Kipper – Postdoc 2004-05 Mate choice mechanisms in birds Senior Researcher, Technische Universität München
Casey Klofstad – Associate 2013-14 Human social and political behavior Associate Professor, University of Miami
Rob Lachlan – Postdoc 2010-2013 Cultural evolution of bird song Lecturer, Royal Holloway University of London
Irene Liu – PhD/Postdoc 2008-2016 Evolution of mating systems Associate Producer, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Bernie Lohr – PhD 1995 Song production & perception Associate Professor, University of MD, Baltimore County
Sheila Patek – PhD 2001 Physics & evolution: animal fast movements Professor, Duke University
Jeff Podos – PhD 1996 Mechanisms & evolution of vertebrate behavior Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Denise Pope – PhD 1998 Evolution of exaggerated & costly displays Program Coordinator, CIRTL
Jonathan Prather – Postdoc 2005-08 Neural mechanisms of behavior Associate Professor, University of Wyoming
Kimberly Rosvall – PhD 2009 The evolution of female aggression Assistant Professor, Indiana University
John Rowden – PhD 1996 Evolution of Australian parrot display behavior Director, Community Conservation, Audubon Society
Kendra Sewall – Postdoc 2010-12 Behavioral plasticity & neural mechanisms Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech
Christopher Sturdy – Postdoc 2000-01 Neuroethology of bird song Professor, University of Alberta
Mark Westneat – Postdoc 1991-92 Systematics, biomechanics & biodiversity Professor, University of Chicago
Stacey Weiss – PhD 1999 Reproductive behavior & animal communication Professor, University of Puget Sound
Tammy Windfelder – PhD 1997 Primate communication & social behavior Associate Professor, Drew University

Nowicki Lab
Department of Biology
Box 90338, Duke University
Durham, NC  27708-0338  USA
Lab phone: 919-684-6950