Dr. Russell D. Dawson - Research Interests


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Reproductive Effort and Success in Birds


The overall goal of my research is to reveal the mechanisms and dynamics of important proximate and ultimate factors that influence reproductive effort and success of animals, primarily birds. Much of my work is grounded in life-history theory, which suggests that organisms maximize fitness by resolving a series of trade-offs. These trade-offs arise because resources such as time and energy are limited, and an individual cannot allocate resources to one process without decreasing allocation to others that are competing for the same resource. Of particular interest are those trade-offs involving the costs of reproduction. Current reproduction is thought to entail costs by reducing future fecundity and survival of parents. It is therefore expected that parents should prudently allocate resources during breeding in a way that maximizes lifetime reproductive success.


Presently, my students and I are investigating a number of issues with regards to reproductive success of birds, primarily using tree swallows as a model. Current projects include examining: 

  • the role of variation in nest microclimate in determining reproductive strategies of birds

  • causes and consequences of mate choice by female birds

  • plumage as an indicator of male quality and mating success

  • declines in reproductive success with advancing clutch initiation dates

  • plumage brightness and disease resistance

  • hatching asynchrony: is it an adaptive strategy or non-adaptive consequence?

  • yolk androgens and offspring quality the role of parasites in hatching asynchrony

  • phenotypic indicators of quality in parent birds and their offspring


If you are interested in graduate work in my lab, please CLICK HERE for further details.


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Last Updated 6 February 2016