Safe journeys to all students returning from spring break travel, including the Knox College Choir tour, plus...
Associate Professor and Chair of Biology
2 East South Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
At Knox Since: 2001
Associate Professor of Biology
Aside from the obvious qualities of Knox that everyone knows, the College's openness to hiring academic couples and the very reasonable approach to job shares was a huge plus. Also, the Green Oaks Biological Field Station is a great place for me to do research, as well as an excellent place to go birding and to explore nature.
What is your most memorable moment at Knox?
I started off as a visiting professor, so the day that I was offered a tenure track job here was pretty memorable. But moments later, I was asked if I would like to go to Tanzania on a faculty development trip with some other Knox faculty. Since visiting East Africa has been a dream since childhood, the combination of offers was almost too good to be true!
Please describe your current research? What is most interesting about this research?
I am interested in sexual selection, and the main focus of my research is on how variation in bird song can signal the quality of the singer. I have previously studied European Starlings and found that males keep learning new sounds each year (unlike many bird species), and the most complex songs are sung by older males in good condition. When I came to Knox, I started studying Indigo Buntings, a bird with a simpler song that was thought to be pretty much fixed throughout life. In fact, my students and I have found that older buntings do add some new sounds to the end of their songs, and that birds in good condition sing longer songs. When you start to see patterns like this in quite different species, it makes you think you are really starting to understand some small part of how the world functions, and that is deeply satisfying.