News in the Animal Behavior Graduate Group

  • June 2014:
    Graduate Students Win Big at the North American Regional Meeting of the International Society for Applied Ethology

    Jennifer Chen and Mary Bonaparte-Saller attended the North American Regional Meeting of the International Society for Applied Ethology at Michigan State University (May 30-31) and won first place in the graduate student oral presentation competition, and third place in the graduate student poster competition, respectively.

  • April 2014:
    Graduate Research Fellowship Program Offers Announced

    Ryane Logsdon is among the 2014 class of awardees. Click here for the complete list.

  • February 2014:
    Jennifer Chen was awarded the Lillie May Richards Fellowship

    Jennifer Chen was awarded the Lillie May Richards Fellowship for the study of dairying for 2014-2015 by the UCD Office of Graduate Studies. She extremely grateful to be a fourth-time recipient of this fellowship.

  • February 2014:
    Jessica Yorzinski receives press for her peafowl eye-tracking study

    Jessica Yorzinski receives press for her peafowl eye-tracking study, which was her dissertation research:

  • January/February 2014:
    Andy Sih Gives Invited Talks

    Andy Sih gave invited talks at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and Debrecen University in Hungary on the evolution and social ecology of animal personalities, and on developing theory to better understand variation in behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC).

  • January 2014:
    Nick DiRienzo received the UC Davis Dissertation Year Fellowship for the 2014-15 academic year.


  • January 2014:
    Andy Sih was the vice chair and co-organizer of the first Gordon Research Conference on Predator-Prey Interactions in Ventura, CA

    Andy Sih was the vice chair and co-organizer of the first Gordon Research Conference on Predator-Prey Interactions in Ventura, CA, January 5-10, 2014. The theme was an interdisciplinary approach to understanding effects of fear on individuals (including human PTSD), populations, communities and ecosystems. Andy gave the closing talk on developing a theoretical framework to better understand responses of naïve prey to exotic, introduced predators. What explains why some prey respond appropriately to novel predators that they have never seen before, while other prey suffer high death rates because they do not respond well to novel predators?

  • January 2014:
    Sean Ehlman attends workshop in Trondheim, Norway

    ABGG student and Sih lab member Sean Ehlman attended a workshop on "Evolution in Stochastic Environments" attended by a select group of both empiricists and theoreticians working on the myriad types of adaptations to environmental unpredictability. Sean presented two recent models: one on bet-hedging in a heterogenous landscape and the other on predator/prey detection theory in uncertain predation regimes.

  • November 2013:
    Gail Patricelli chosen as a Chancellor's Fellow for 2014

    In recognition of her research, teaching and service activities, Professor Patricelli has been named one of the 2013-2014 Chancellor's Fellows and will receive a $25,000 one-time award to be used in support of her work.

    The Chancellor's Fellows Program is supported in part by funds from the Davis Chancellor's Club and the Annual Fund of the University of California, Davis. The program was established in 2000 to honor the achievements of outstanding faculty members early in their careers.

  • October 2013:
    Lynne Isbell's research on snakes and primates attracts news media attention

    Lynne Isbell's research on the effects of snakes on primate vision has again generated extensive media coverage following a paper published with her collaborators in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

    These have included an summary description of the work and an interview with NPR's All Things Considered


    The Scientist

    National Geographic

    The New York Times

    T he Los Angeles Times

    and even farther away in Australia

    and Germany

  • October 2013:
    Jennifer Phillips received an ARCS fellowship for 2013-2014 academic year

    Jennifer Chen received a travel award from Human Society International/Humane Society of the United States to deliver an oral presentation, "Dairy cattle preferences for sprinklers delivering different water volumes." The award was for travel to the annual congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, which was held in Florianopolis, Brazil.

  • May 2013:
    Jennifer Chen received a travel award from Human Society International/Humane Society of the United States


  • April 2013:
    ABGG Grad Wins Award for Outstanding Dissertation

    Maxine Zylberberg, a 2011 ABGG grad and past Hahn lab member, won the 2013 Allen G. Marr prize, awarded by the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies. The Allen G. Marr prize, established in honor of longtime former Dean of Graduate Studies Allen G. Marr, recognizes top-notch dissertation work. Read more about Maxine's work and the Marr prize here:

  • April 2013:
    Jennifer Chen Receives Multiple Accolades

    ABGG student and Tucker Lab Member Jennifer Chen received multiple accolades on campus this month! Jennifer won the People's Choice Award for Best Oral Presentation at the annual UC Davis Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Symposium on April 5. Jennifer also received the Lillie May Richards fellowship, a fellowship awarded through the Office of Graduate Studies to students studying dairying.

  • January 2013:
    Teresa Makes the Times!

    A major media outlet has once again highlighted the research of ABGG alum Teresa Iglesias. The New York Times featured Teresa's research on Western Scrub Jays in this January 2013 article.

  • September 2012:
    Conor Taff Wins NAOC Award

    ABGG student Conor Taff won the A. Brazier Howell Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society at the 2012 North American Ornithological Conference (NAOC) in Vancouver. The A. Brazier Howell Award is given for the best paper presented at the annual meeting.

  • September 2012:
    ABGG Student's Research a Media Sensation

    The research of ABGG student Teresa Iglesias has recently been featured in various news stories, including BBC Nature, and even a parody by Comedy Central UK. Teresa's paper describing "cacophonous aggregations" by Western scrub-jays in response to dead conspecifics was recently published by Animal Behaviour.

  • August 2012:
    Andy Sih Lectures in Europe

    In August, Andy Sih hit the road giving four research talks in Switzerland and Sweden on a diverse array of topics. First, he gave an invited workshop presentation on behavioral syndromes and alternative behavioral tactics in Adelboden, Switzerland. Then, a talk at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology conference in Lund, Sweden on the ecological and evolutionary importance of individual differences in social skill, followed by two invited symposium talks, also in Lund, on behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change, and on the evolutionary ecology of behavioral type dependent dispersal.

  • July 2012:
    ABGG Master Adviser Is Olympian

    ABGG Master Adviser Marilyn Ramenofsky speaks from personal experience when she co-teaches her course on the history of the Olympics through the department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. Dr. Ramenofsky won the silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle swim at the 1964 Olympics. See Dr. Ramenofsky discuss her Olympic experience and the impact of Title IX on sports here:

  • June 2012:
    ABGG Accolades at Animal Behavior Society Conference

    UC Davis once again pulled in several of the major awards at the 2012 Animal Behavior Society annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Two former ABGG graduates from the 1990’s, Greg Grether and Dan Blumstein were named Fellows of the ABS. Both are now professors at UCLA. In addition, the Outstanding New Investigator Award, which is given to only one young scientist in animal behavior each year was awarded to Alison Bell who got her PhD at Davis with Judy Stamps, and was a postdoc with Andy Sih. Alison’s research on behavioral syndromes is among the most influential, widely cited work of the last decade. She is now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois. Finally, the Allee Award for best student paper (essentially, best recently completed PhD project) was awarded to Julia Saltz who finished her PhD in late 2011 with Andy Sih. Julia’s research is on the genetics and evolutionary importance of animal ‘social niche construction’ – including both choosing and altering one’s social environment. Julia is now a postdoc at the University of Southern California. See this Website’s News for February 2011 and July 2010 for other recent Animal Behavior Society awards given to UC Davis animal behaviorists.

  • June 2012:
    Emily Rothwell Lands ASP Grant

    Emily Rothwell, an ABGG student in Karen Bales' lab, was awarded an American Society of Primatologists (ASP) Small Research Grant for her proposal, "Investigating the role of dopamine in monogamous pair bonds in titi monkeys (Callicebus cupreus)." Emily's was one of eight proposals recommended for an award at the 35th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Primatologists, held in Sacramento the weekend of June 23-24.

  • May 2012:
    ABGG Article Selected for E-Distribution

    Elsevier's Monthly Research Selection, an e-newsletter for science journalists and reporters, featured a paper written by ABGG faculty member Andy Sih, ABGG student Sean Fogarty and former Sih Lab postdoc Julien Cote in a recent newsletter. Elsevier's summarized the paper, originally published in Animal Behaviour, here: "Individual sociability and choosiness between shoal types".

  • April 2012:
    ABGG Research Inspires "Robosquirrel"

    CNN featured research conducted by late ABGG faculty member Donald Owings and colleagues on the behavior of ground squirrels and their primary predators, rattlesnakes. Researchers constructed a "robosquirrel" to study squirrel-snake interactions in the field. To see a video of robosquirrel in action and to read more about how ABGG faculty Richard Coss, Jeffrey Schank and Gail Patricelli also use robots for research, click here.

  • March 2012:
    Elizabeth Schultz Wins Grants

    Animal Behavior student and Hahn lab member Elizabeth Schultz received TWO grants: one from international research society Sigma Xi and another from the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology to support her research on seasonal modulation of sickness behavior in red crossbills.

  • January 2012:
    ABGG Student Presents at Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference

    Aaron Haiman, a first-year ABGG student in Tom Hahn's lab, presented a poster at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference in Charleston, South Carolina in early 2012. The poster, titled "Variation in Vocalizations and Morphology in the Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)" and is the work of Aaron, his advisor Tom Hahn, and Hahn lab undergraduate Kirollos Gendi.

  • September 2011:
    Anne Valuska to Speak at Upcoming Symposium

    ABGG student Anne Valuska received an invitation to speak at the Innovative Environmental Enrichment AALAS Satellite Symposium in San Diego on October 2nd. Anne's talk is titled, "Socially housing laboratory rabbits: taking a cue from wild rabbit behavior to improve introduction success". Anne, a member of Joy Mench's lab, studies the factors mediating agonistic behavior in New Zealand White Rabbits.

  • September 2011:
    Vivek Thuppil Wins Grant to Support Field Work

    Vivek Thuppil, a student in Richard Coss' lab, won a grant from the Rufford Small Grant Foundation to support his field work in India. This year, Vivek is trying to practically, and in a low-cost manner, implement the research he conducted last year into the utility of using predator vocalizations (tiger growls, leopard growls, and villager shouts) as a method of deterring elephants from crop-raiding in southern India.

  • September 2011:
    Jennifer Phillips Featured in Article

    The Field Museum in Chicago recently featured ABGG student Jennifer Phillips in an article about her research at the museum. Jennifer received a grant to work in the museum's collections for several weeks.

  • September 2011:
    ABGG Faculty Member Appointed to Scientific Board

    Marilyn Ramenofsky, an ABGG faculty member in the department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, was appointed to the scientific board for the centre of "Movement Ecology Research" (CAnMove) at Lund University in Sweden.

  • September 2011:
    Article by ABGG-ers Proves Popular

    "Social network theory: new insights and issues for behavioral ecologists" (published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Volume 63, Issue Number 7, 2009) was - as in 2009 - the most downloaded article of this journal in 2010. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology is widely considered one of the top three animal behavior journals in the world. This article was written by Andrew Sih, the former chair of the ABGG, and two previous graduate students in animal behavior here at UC Davis, Katie McHugh and Sean Hanser. It emerged out of an interdisciplinary workshop on social network theory that the ABGG sponsored at UC Davis in 2006.

  • September 2011:
    ABGG Student Published

    The Wilson Journal of Ornithology recently published a short note by ABGG student Melissa Blundell:

    Blundell, M. A. and B. E. Kus. 2011. First record of interspecific breeding of Least Bell's Vireo and White-eyed Vireo. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 123:628-631.

    Melissa, a member of the Patricelli lab, studies communication, sexual selection, conservation and recognition in avian systems.

  • August 2011:
    ABGG Student Awarded Research Grant

    Jamilynn Poletto was awarded a small research grant from the Lerner Gray Fund for Marine Biology from the American Museum of Natural History. The grant will be used to evaluate the ability of marine fishes to detect and respond to local magnetic fields in the environment.

  • August 2011:
    ABGG Student Wins Poster Competition

    Jennifer Chen was awarded first place in the Student Poster Competition at the 45th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology in Indianapolis. Jennifer's posted was titled "Dairy cows use and prefer feed bunks fitted with sprinklers in summer."

  • June 2011:
    ABGG Students Garner Competitive Research Grants

    Jennifer Phillips received the Field Museum Visiting Scholarship to support her while she conducts research at the Field Museum in Chicago. She will be studying the effects of climate change on the coloration of birds.

    Jennifer also received a second grant. The Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology Grants-in-Aid of Research will help fund Jenn's research on the relationship among humidity, feather-degrading bacteria and bird coloration across humidity gradients.

    Allison Heagerty received a small grant from the Animal Behavior Society. The grant goes towards funding a project using social network analysis to assess changes in captive macaque group stability in response to environmental changes.

  • June 2011:
    Marilyn Ramenofsky to Speak at the International Symposium on Animal Migration

    Animal Behavior faculty member Marilyn Ramenofsky has an invitation to speak at the International Symposium on Animal Migration. The Symposium is sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundations and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Eighth Kristineberg Symposium is to be held at the Sven Loven Centre for Marine Sciences, Kristineberg /Fiskebackskil, June 8 - 11, 2011.

  • June 2011:
    ABGG Welcomes New Members

    Louie Yang
    Louie studies species interactions using perspectives from behavioral, population, community and ecosystem ecology. He is particularly interested in investigating how natural communities combine complex, coordinated and changing interactions. Current projects in the lab investigate changes in the timing of California milkweed-monarch interactions and island community responses to strong storm-driven perturbations in the Bahamas. Louie teaches Insect Ecology (ENT 105) and Experimental Ecology and Evolution in the Field (EVE 180). More information about Louie's research and teaching is available at

    Steven Morgan
    Dr. Morgan studies ecological and evolutionary impacts of behavior in the sea. His interests include predator-prey behavior, reproductive and larval behavior coupling complex life cycles, behavioral plasticity across species ranges, the evolution of marine life histories, the impact of climate change on species interactions, and conservation.

    Joanna Chiu
    Joanna studies how endogenous body clocks of animals are entrained by environmental, nutritional, or social stimuli; and how the body clocks process this information and control circadian rhythms of animal behavior, physiology, and metabolism. Her laboratory uses a combination of molecular genetics, biochemical, and proteomic approaches to answer these questions. More information on her research is available at: Joanna currently teaches one of the core courses for undergraduate Animal Biology major, and graduate courses in insect molecular biology and genomics for Entomology.

    The Group also welcomed new members Edwin Lewis of the Entomology and Nematology departments and Neal Williams of the Entomology department.

  • April 2011:
    ABGG Mourns the Loss of Longtime Member Don Owings

    The Animal Behavior Graduate Group is deeply saddened by the loss of longtime member and friend Dr. Donald Owings who passed away on April 9, 2011.

    From the Davis Enterprise:
    Don achieved an outstanding reputation for his contributions to animal behavior based on decades of ground-breaking empirical research and theory. Much of his work focused on understanding how ground squirrels cope with their snake predators, yielding one of the most extensive research programs on predator-prey interactions of any animal species studied. His theoretical insights into how natural selection shapes the evolution of behavior were unique and provided important lessons in the systematic study of natural history for the many students and colleagues who have been involved in his research.

    His scientific stature is demonstrated by the extent and quality of his numerous publications, invited contributions and presentations at meetings of professional societies. Among the honors that he received were election to the status of Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and appointment to the editorial boards of the leading journals in his field. Most notably, he received the 2011 international Animal Behavior Society's Exemplar Award for major long-term contributions to the study of animal behavior.

    As a superb educator and wise counselor, Don voluntarily assumed more than his share of advising, academic committee participation and administrative duties, chairing the Psychology Department and Graduate Group in Animal Behavior. He was an excellent mentor to his many graduate students, and he was awarded Outstanding Mentor of the Year in 1995 for mentoring numerous undergraduate students. His wisdom, insights, generosity and contributions to the Animal Behavior Graduate Group will be sorely missed.

    Don's full obituary can be found here:

  • March 2011:
    Sean Fogarty and Kim VanderWaal are awarded ARCS scholarships

    Two of our PhD students, Sean Fogarty and Kim VanderWaal were awarded the 2011-12 Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Award (ARCS). These scholarships are provided to academically outstanding young scientists who are ‘contributing to the worldwide advancement of science and technology’. Sean works on how individual variation in behavioral types influences ecological invasions, using a blend of mathematical models and experiments on mosquitofish that have been listed as among the Top 100 Invasive Pests in the world. Kim uses social network theory to analyze patterns of social interaction that govern bacterial disease transmission in giraffes and other large mammals in Kenya.

  • February 2011:
    John Wingfield Elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    John Wingfield was recently elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS' website notes that, "the Election as a Fellow of AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers. Fellows are recognized for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications."

  • February 2011:
    Maud Ferrari Won the Animal Behavior Society's Outstanding New Investigator Award.

    The Animal Behavior Society announced that Dr. Maud Ferrari, a postdoctoral scientist working with Andy Sih, was the 2011 winner of their Outstanding New Investigator award. This is the most prestigious award given by the major international society in our field to a relatively young scientist (usually an assistant professor). It recognizes an outstanding contribution in animal behavior by a new investigator, and has only typically been awarded to one person in animal behavior every year or two. The winner two years ago was Dr. Gail Patricelli, a faculty member here at UC Davis (see August 2009 below). Dr. Ferrari previously won the 2010 Doctoral Prize for the Best Canadian PhD Thesis in the Natural Sciences. She will soon be moving to an assistant professor position at the University of Saskatchewan.

  • 2010 – February 2011:
    Lynne Isbell Received Multiple Honors.

    In 2010 Dr. Isbell won the Social Sciences Dean's Innovation Award. This is a research award for Senate or Federation scholars whose recent work demonstrates exceptional innovation in research and scholarship.

    Dr. Isbell's latest book, The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well (Harvard University Press, 2009) was the 2010 Runner-up for The Atlantic Books of the Year Award. It was one of only two science books that made it into the top 20 books of the year.

    In February 2011, Dr. Isbell was the Invited Speaker for a conference on "Affective Regulation and the Neuroscience of Emotion", held as a Festschrift for Prof. Arne Öhman at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

  • Summer 2010:
    Kim VanderWaal received four grants.

    The Animal Behavior Society Student Research Award and Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid-of-Research will support Kim's research on the impact of social structure on pathogen transmission dynamics in giraffe. Awards from the Oregon Zoo Future for Wildlife Program and NEW Zoo Conservation Grant Program will help fund Kim's research on interspecific pathogen transmission among wild and domestic ungulates in Kenya.

  • August 2010:
    Maja Makagon was invited to give one of the key note lectures at the International Meeting of the ISAE (International Society for Applied Ethology) in Sweden

    The International Meeting of the ISAE happens each year. There were 6 key note speakers invited to give plenary talks this year. Maja was the only graduate student - all others are veterans in their fields (their biographies are here). The basic set up was the morning and afternoon sessions started with a keynote talk and were followed by split-sessions (concurrent in 2 rooms). There were 360 or so people who attended/registered to attend the conference.

  • July 2010:
    John Wingfield received a Doctor of Science Honoris Causa degree from the University of Sheffield, UK.

    “It was a great honor to receive this degree from my former undergraduate institution.” John Wingfield.

  • July 2010:
    ABGG faculty won several major Career Research awards from the Animal Behavior Society.

    During this year’s major international conference of the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), UCD-ABGG students and alums were out in impressive numbers, giving talks and leading symposia. At the conference banquet, the ABS gave out their four major Career Research awards for 2010 and announced their 2011 awards. Several UCD-ABGG faculty were honored to receive ABS Career Awards this year, adding to our success in other recent years.

    Don Owings was awarded the 2011 Exemplar Award which recognizes a major long-term contribution in animal behavior.

    Andy Sih won the 2011 Quest Award which recognizes an outstanding seminal contribution in animal behavior.

    Gail Patricelli was presented with the 2010 Outstanding Young Investigator Award (see August 2009 below).

    John Wingfield won the Exemplar Award for 2009.

    Judy Stamps won the Distinguished Animal Behaviorist Award in 2007 which recognizes the outstanding career in animal behavior.

    Andy Sih, Chair of the Animal Behavior Graduate Group, comments: “That’s an amazing amount of recognition for the faculty in our group over just the last 3-4 years. As you may recall, in recent years, our students have also been impressively frequent winners of the best student talk and/or best poster awards!

    Go ABGG!"

  • June 2010:
    Andrew Sih gave a series of invited lectures in the Eminent Ecologist Lecture Series at Michigan State University's Kellogg Biological Station (June 14-18).

    During his stay there, resident faculty and graduate students kept Sih busy with meetings, discussions and visits to local research sites from 8 am to 10 pm every day. Sih's talks covered his research on behavioral syndromes (also known as 'animal personalities'), on the use of social network theory in animal behavior, and on understanding variation in behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change.

  • Spring 2010:
    Jenn Phillips received three grants.

    American Museum of Natural History's Chapman Memorial Grant- This grant is awarded to graduate students conducting ornithilogical research. In this case it was awarded to fund Jenn's aviary research on the role of phenotypic plasticity in the relationship between humidity and coloration in bird feathers. Birds are generally darker in areas of higher humidity (Gloger's Rule), but no one knows the underlying mechanisms or evolutionary pressures. She will be starting this research later this year or early next year. Her adviser is Gail Patricelli of Evolution and Ecology.

    The International Osprey Foundation's Research Grant- This grant funds research on raptors and birds more broadly. It will fund Jenn's field research on the relationship between feather-degrading bacteria, melanism (darkness), and humidity in multiple species of birds, including kestrels (a raptor). This research will start late next year.

    American Ornithological Union's Research Award- This grant is awarded to fund research on birds done by graduate students and post-docs. It will be used to fund Jenn's cross-fostering and aviary studies on the role of phenotypic plasticity in melanin-based coloration. This research will start early next year.

  • Spring 2010:
    Conor Taff received two grants, one from the Explorer's Club Exploration Fund and one from The Society for the Study of Evolution's Rosemary Grant Fund.

    These grants will both support aspects of Conor's research on sexual selection and the evolution of multiple signals in Common Yellowthroat warblers. The Explorer's Club grant will help fund research using automated recording units to examine song performance and investment across seasonal time scales. The Rosemary Grant Award will fund research examining how maternal effects influence the inheritance of physiological traits, which are linked with honesty in signal production. Conor is advised by Dr. Gail Patricelli at UC Davis and collaborates with Dr. Corey Freeman-Gallant at Skidmore College.

  • May 2010:
    Dan Gottlieb received second place and Maja (with a JAY) Makagon received third place in the graduate student paper presentation competition at the regional meeting of the NA-ISAE.

    The NA-ISAE is the "North American Regional Meeting of the International Society of Applied Ethologists." The ISAE (International Society of Applied Ethologists) started in 1966 and covers "all applied aspects of Ethology and other Behavioural Sciences, which are relevant to many human-animal interactions, such as farming, wildlife management, the keeping of companion and laboratory animals, and the control of pests." (from the website). The NA-ISAE meets yearly.

  • April 2010:
    It's official: Lynne Isbell is now an "award-winning" teacher!

    The Representative Assembly of the Davis Division of the Academic Senate has confirmed that Lynne is a recipient of a 2010 Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduates/Professionals. Awards are also given for undergraduate teaching. Graduate students, faculty and a staff member of the Animal Behavior Graduate Group were all among her nominators. Awards will be presented at a ceremony in conjunction with other Academic Senate and Academic Federation awards on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 5:30 p.m. in ARC Ballroom A.

  • April 2010:
    Richard McElreath was cited as a coauthor in a study published in Science.

    Richard McElreath coauthored a paper published in Science that shed new light on the mystery of human cooperation ( ). As Richard explains: Human cooperation, frequently occurring among strangers and in very large groups, continues to be a puzzle for evolutionary theory. The main competing explanations for human cooperation are (1) that cooperation in large unrelated groups is a maladaptive consequence of the recent growth of the human population or (2) that large-scale cooperation arose through the cultural evolution of institutions that arose along with the growth of the human population. This study aimed to test these two hypotheses against one another by measuring, in diverse non-student populations around the world, willingness to behave fairly and punish those who do not behave fairly. The team of anthropologists and economists found that, contrary to the maladaptation hypothesis, punishment is associated with larger societies, and fairness is associated both with market integration and world religions, such as Islam and Christianity. These results make sense, if punishment and markets and world religions create novel behavioral mechanisms that are co-adapted to modern societies. The results do not make sense, if we instead believe that people are playing out ancient behavioral mechanisms, adapted to a former human demography.

  • April 2010:
    Vivek Thuppil received the Bert and Nell Krantz International Agriculture Fellowship.

    This is a one-year fellowship open to entering and continuing students who are U.S. citizens pursuing a graduate degree in the fields of land and water resources or plant sciences as related to production agriculture, and who have demonstrated a commitment to pursue work in the area of agricultural development in a less-developed country. One fellowship is awarded.

  • April 2010:
    Vivek Thuppil and Richard Coss received the Assistance Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

    This is a research grant that will fund all of Vivek’s research expenses for the next year. It covers the total cost (purchase and transport) of all equipment needed to set up antipredator models for elephants in up to five crop-raiding affected villages in southern India, covers my airfare to India and back as well as transportation within India (in the form of mileage reimbursement), pays for the salaries of his field assistants in India (five or six of them), and gives him a per diem allowance for the duration of the six months in the field.

    With this grant, Vivek and Dick will be able to simultaneously conduct research in five or six villages with two to three cameras in each village to better track elephant movement. Last year, they conducted research in only one village with only a single camera. So he’s hoping that this grant will enable him to collect enough data so that this will be his last field season and he can graduate on a 5-year schedule, in June 2012!

  • April 2010:
    Jenn Chen received the Lillie May Richards Fellowship

    Jennifer Chen is a new Animal Behavior student who will be working with Cassandra Tucker starting summer 2010. This is a one-year fellowship open to entering and continuing students. Students must be studying dairying, with preference given to graduates of San Juan High School of Fair Oaks, California. One fellowship is awarded.

  • April 2010:
    Sarah Laredo, Jamilynn Poletto, Beth Schultz and new student Melissa Blundell won 2010 NSF Graduate Research fellowships.

    Sarah is currently studying the effects of social stress on the neural circuits involved in spatial memory, stress, and aggression in California mice with Brian Trainor. Sarah is also working on a project with California ground squirrels investigating how differing predation pressures affect the evolution of neural circuits involved in the antipredator response. She is conducting the squirrel project with Don Owings and Dick Coss.

    Jamilynn proposed to investigate the role of magnetoreception in the orientation and navigation abilities of elasmobranch fishes. She hypothesized that sharks and rays can use local magnetic anomalies as landmarks by which they will guide their movements, and designed a conditioning experiment to test this hypothesis in bat rays (Myliobatis californica).

    Beth is currently interested in the possible fitness costs and tradeoffs associated with immune defense of an opportunistic breeder, the red crossbill.

    Melissa Blundell, a new student joining us in Fall 2010 and working with Gail Patricelli, is currently interested in communication, sexual selection, and recognition systems in avian systems. She has joined the Patricelli Lab and is developing a project with the sage-grouse system.

    Nick DiRienzo was awarded an NSF GRF honorable mention.

  • March 2010:
    The Animal Behavior Graduate Group welcomes a new member, Andy Marshall from the Department of Anthropology.

    Andy primarily works on topics related to vertebrate evolutionary and behavioral ecology, tropical forest ecology, population biology, and conservation. Most of his empirical work investigates primate population ecology and rain forest plant reproductive biology at his field site, Gunung Palung National Park, located in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. More information on his research is available at: Andy teaches introductory and advanced undergraduate courses in Anthropology and graduate courses in Anthropology and for the Graduate Group in Ecology.

  • March 2010:
    Lynne Isbell’s book The Fruit, the Tree and the Serpent: Why We See So Well Harvard was reviewed by The Atlantic Monthly.

    Also The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well; Harvard University Press, has been identified as a 2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Choice is a journal that has reviews of thousands of books each year and is used by academic librarians to determine the best books to stock in their libraries. In 2009, about 7000 books were reviewed and about 10% were awarded that honor. Congratulations Lynne!

  • March 2010:
    Karen Bales was elected President of the American Society of Primatologists

    Karen Bales was elected President of the American Society of Primatologists to take office 2012. Karen will serve as President-Elect for the next two years.

  • March 2010:
    Rick Grosberg won the 2010 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement

    The UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement, a $40,000 award for both teaching and research excellence, is believed to be the largest prize of its kind in the United States. Prizewinners are leaders in their academic fields nationally and internationally, as well as strong university teachers with a passion for undergraduate education. Please see the article in Spotlight here

  • January 2010:
    Sarah Laredo has received the Sigma Xi Grant-In-Aid of Research.

    Sigma Xi is an international research society that promotes scientific excellence in research areas including "research ethics, science and engineering education, the public understanding of science, international research networking and the overall health of the research enterprise." The Grant-In-Aid of Research gives up to $1,000 to students in science and engineering so that students may use these funds for travel to and from research sites, and for the purchase of laboratory equipment necessary to complete a designated research project. Sarah's project involves investigating the evolution of the neural basis of anti-predator behavior in California ground squirrels experiencing differing predation pressures from Northern Pacific rattlesnakes. Sarah’s major professors are Don Owings and Dick Coss from Psychology.

  • January 2010:
    Kim VanderWaal was awarded the Wildlife Health Center Fellowship.

    This grant is awarded to graduate students whose research relates to ecosystem health or diseases of free-ranging wildlife. Advised by Dr. Lynne Isbell and sponsored by Dr. Brenda McCowan, she investigates bacterial transmission and social networks in giraffe. Her field work in Kenya is slated to begin next summer.

  • January 2010:
    Andrew Sih gave a talk at the Applied Evolution Summit at Heron Island, Australia, January 3-8.

    This conference brought together about 30 scientists to discuss current progress and future areas of study for using evolutionary principles to better manage interdisciplinary issues in the environment, agriculture and human health. Sih's talk emphasized the role of behavior as the first response to human-induced rapid environmental changes (e.g., climate change, habitat loss, invasion of exotic species) that often cause mismatches between the species' (including humans) evolutionary history and its current environment. Many of the ideas in this talk grew out of an earlier ABGG workshop on this topic.

  • December 2009:
    Andrew Sih gave a plenary talk at Oxford University in Oxford, UK.

    This was the opening talk at a workshop on the ecology and evolution of behavioral syndromes, also known as animal personalities. This workshop brought together animal behaviorists, psychologists, physiologists, behavioral geneticists and behavioral ecologists to better understand how and why individual animals in many non-human species (including many mammals, birds, lizards, fish, even insects and spiders) exhibit stable behavioral types. Two of the seminal papers that emphasized the ecological and evolutionary importance of behavioral syndromes (Sih et al. 2004 in Quarterly Review of Biology, and in Trends in Ecology and Evolution) emerged from an earlier workshop sponsored by the Animal Behavior Graduate Group here at UC Davis.

  • December 2009:
    Gail Patricelli profiled by Science Nation in article entitled Bird Courtship Fembot helps researchers study America's most bizarre bird.

    Gail Patricelli has been profiled by Science Nation, a new science video series commissioned by the NSF Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. You can find the story on NSF's Web site here: The story has received great feedback and continues to be picked up by a number of media outlets.

  • December 2009:
    Danielle Brown was interviewed by Nick Baker for Nick Baker’s Weird Creatures.

    The episode is called Nick Baker's Weird Creatures: Tamandua. It aired on December 9th, 2009 (8 pm CST) on the Science Channel. The host came to Danielle’s field site to film the species with which she works, the tamandua anteater. This series may air sometime on Animal Planet next year, so don't worry if you miss it this go round!

  • December 2009:
    Jessica Yorzinski and Gail Patricelli were interviewed for UC Davis’ News and Information for an article called Birds Call to Warn Friends and Enemies.

  • September 2009:
    Karen Bales was awarded a two-year R21 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study "Early Experience and Somatosensory Systems in Voles." Her co-PI is Leah Krubitzer from Psychology.

    Many developmental disorders exhibit changes in both social behavior and sensory function. This project will investigate how environmental factors in early life, such as different levels of parenting behavior received, can lead to changes in later social behavior and in the function of the somatosensory cortex. Prairie voles are a socially monogamous species which displays high levels of pair-bonding and male parenting behavior. We will compare prairie voles which have received high levels of parenting as infants to those which have received low levels of parenting. We will examine their later social behavior, anxiety, and sensory behavior. We will also examine both the size of their primary somatosensory cortex, the representation of body parts within primary somatosensory cortex, and connections to other areas.

  • September 2009:
    Marilyn Ramenofsky was awarded a 2 year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the physiological regulation of migratory traits.

    This study looks at how key environmental factors such as photoperiod (day length) affect the behavior, physiology and biochemical changes needed for birds to migrate long distances (up to close to 10,000 miles). In particular, new studies will compare mechanisms associated with spring and autumn migrations in a long-distance migrant the Gambel’s White-crowned sparrow. This work should help us better understand how small birds achieve the amazing feat of long-distance migration, and also why numbers of migratory species are rapidly declining worldwide.

  • August 2009:
    John Wingfield was awarded the Exemplar Award of the Animal Behavior Society in Pirenopolis, Brazil.

    The Exemplar Award of the Animal Behavior Society is one of the two most prestigious awards given to senior scientists by the major international society in our field. It is awarded in recognition of a long career of distinguished research that has had a leading, significant impact on the field. The award ceremony at the Animal Behavior Society’s major annual conference specifically outlined John’s contributions to the development of "field and environmental endocrinology" particularly in relation to animal behavior and its links with reproduction, migration, and molting. John was “very flattered and honored to receive the award.”

  • July 2009:
    Brian Trainor was awarded a Hellman Family Foundation Grant.

    Brian’s grant proposal was entitled, “Rapid Effects of Estrogens on Behavior.” Brian’s research examines how the environment regulates the effects of steroid hormones on social behaviors. For more on the Hellman Foundation grants see

  • Summer 2009:
    Gail Patricelli was awarded the Outstanding New Investigator Award by the Animal Behavior Society.

    The Outstanding New Investigator Award is the most prestigious award given by the major international society in our field to a relatively young scientist (usually an assistant professor). It recognizes an outstanding contribution in animal behavior by a new investigator, and has only typically been awarded to one person in animal behavior every other year. Notably, two of the Outstanding New Investigator Award winners in the last decade have been members of the UC Davis Animal Behavior Graduate Group (in 2000, the winner was Greg Grether who received his Ph.D. from our group). Gail will receive her award at the 2010 annual conference. Gail also earlier received the Allee Award from the Animal Behavior Society which is the major award that the society gives to one top new Ph.D. each year.

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