Using technology to study courtship and conservation
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Female greater sage-grouse soliciting copulation
Animals use a dizzying array of sounds, smells, colors, dances, electrical fields and seismic vibrations to convince each other to mate. These elaborate courtship signals were a mystery until Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, which proposed that the courting sex (often, but not always the males) must be elaborate because the courted sex (often, but not always the females) demands it. But how do scientists study the conversations males and females in non-human animals have about mating? One way to do this is to participate, controlling one side of the conversation with a robot. Gail Patricelli will talk about using robotic females to study courtship behaviors in two spectacular species of birds, the satin bowerbird and the greater sage-grouse.
Gail Patricelli is a professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology and Chair of the Animal Behavior Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. Members of the Patricelli Lab study the evolution of courtship and other forms of communication in birds and the impact of human activities, like urban development and noise pollution, on communication, breeding ecology, and reproductive success. This research uses technology such as biomimetic robotics, microphone arrays, acoustic monitoring, and remote telemetry to study populations in the wild, from local songbirds to species of conservation concern, such as greater sage-grouse.