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 a second-year graduate student interested in cognition, communication, and mate choice. She received her Bachelor's in animal behavior from Franklin and Marshall College in 2018, where she researched various topics including rat cooperation, dog aggression, and elephant demographics. Recently, she served in the Pennsylvania College Advising Corps, where she worked to enhance college access for underserved students.

Katie Henson

Graduate Student

Katie is a second-year graduate student interested in mate choice, sexual dimorphism, and the evolution of avian coloration. She received a B.S. in organismal biology from California State University, Long Beach. As an undergraduate, Katie studied male mate choice in fruit flies with Dr. Ashley Carter and in zebra finches with Dr. Nancy Burley (at UC Irvine). In her spare time, Katie is an avid birdwatcher.

Clara Howell

Graduate Student

Clara is a third-year graduate student interested in sexual signaling, cognitive ability, and brain development. She recently finished a Master's degree at the University of Tennessee, working with Dr. Liz Derryberry on the effects of heat stress on avian cognition.

Jason Dinh

Graduate Student Affiliate

Jason is a graduate student affiliate of the Nowicki Lab. He is interested in mechanisms and evolution of animal signals. More specifically, Jason is interested in discovering the physical and physiological rules that dictate signal structure and elaboration. His dissertation research focuses on signal honesty, animal weapons, and sensory biology.

Nia Williams


Nia is a third-year pre-vet student pursuing a Program II major. Outside the lab, she is an intern for the Duke University Union (DUU) Campus Concerts Committee, a committed volunteer at the Duke Puppy Kindergarten, and a Reginaldo Howard Scholar. Nia hopes to study either wildlife medicine or neurological veterinary medicine one day.

Emily Zhen


Emily is a first-year undergraduate studying biology and global health. Outside of the lab, she is involved with GlobeMed at Duke and Embodiment Contemporary Dance. Emily is interested in environmental sustainability as well as animal behavior, and she hopes to pursue a career in medicine.

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