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We are looking for enthusiastic and creative students and postdocs to join the Macaulay Library to pursue questions in behavioral and evolutionary ecology. Are you interested in animal behavior? The evolution of animal signals? The ecological and evolutionary underpinnings of reproductive strategies? The micro- and macroevolutionary consequences of sexual selection? These questions and others can be answered with the archived media in Macaulay Library and other museum collections, and in some cases by field work on birds and other animals. Please see below if you are interested in these topics and would like to join us. We also encourage students interested in curatorial work and public education to join us. Scientific research is increasingly dependent on technology to address these questions, so we encourage engineers and computer scientists to explore these questions with us, too.

We place equal emphasis on doing the research that we love and teaching and training others to become professional scientists and citizens that value science. In addition, students and postdocs in Macaulay Library have opportunities to interact and collaborate with excellent colleagues through our connections to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, as well as good ties to other Cornell Departments such as Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Natural Resources.

Opportunities for Graduate Students and Postdocs

Graduate students and postdocs joining Dr. Mike Webster’s “Weblab” are also part of the Department (or Graduate Field) of Neurobiology and Behavior, and spend time on the main campus as well as at the Lab of Ornithology. Students and postdocs conduct research on a diversity of topics falling within the broad outlines described above. Much of this research is field-based, but some projects rely heavily on using the media specimens and other resources of the Macaulay Library. Although most student projects fall within the major research themes of the Weblab and are focused on birds, we are question-oriented and past student projects have included studies of brood parasitism in ducks, alternative reproductive strategies in sunfish, and even conservation genetics of wild sheep and plants. Contact Mike to learn more.

Opportunities for Undergraduates

We welcome motivated undergraduates interested in obtaining research experience. New students joining the lab are often mentored by a graduate student or postdoc to work on a project. Students often earn course credit for their work. Students who have experience in the lab and show exceptional promise can conduct their own independent research projects. These projects are developed in consultation with the mentor and Mike and often fulfill the requirements of a senior honor’s thesis. Students have also published their work! Contact Janelle to learn more.

Hybridization in Birds

Would you mate with another species? Why do birds sometimes hybridize with other species Hybridization? More like WHYbridization! 

Drs. Rusty Ligon and Gavin Leighton are searching for an enthusiastic undergraduate researcher to help collect data and compile a database on hybridization in birds. The ultimate goal is to test how sociality and breeding systems influence macroevolutionary patterns of hybridization across birds. The work would entail extracting data from primary and secondary sources of information on birds, and learning about macroevolutionary methods. They anticipate that the research would require work for a semester, but could be extended into similar and novel projects. Students working on this project will have the opportunity to receive credit for their participation, or apply for supplemental funding (contingent upon a successful, student-written application). If interested please contact Gavin Leighton explaining your interest in the project.

The Why, What, and Where of Communicative Complexity in Birds

Why are some species vocalizing in numerous contexts and situations, whereas others say a couple things and a couple things only? I am looking for an undergraduate researcher to help mine data and construct vocal repertoires along with associated information in birds. The associated information includes ecology, behaviors, and life history traits that we will then use in the evolutionary analysis. The end goal is to utilize evolutionary methods to determine why certain species are especially vocal. The work would entail extracting data from secondary sources of information on birds, and learning about macroevolutionary methods. I anticipate that the research would require work for a semester, but could be extended into independent and novel projects. The undergraduate would be advised by Dr. Gavin Leighton in the Neurobiology & Behavior Department. If interested please contact Gavin Leighton at gml86@cornell.edu explaining your interest in the project.