The DuVal Lab - Megan Jones

Megan Jones

Ph.D. student, office: KIN 4004

B.S. Wildife Biology, Humboldt State University

Research Interests:
I am interested in many aspects of behavioral and evolutionary ecology. My current work is focused on fitness consequences of cooperative display in Pipridae (manakins).  I have a strong background in field work, particularly with birds, in both temperate and tropical zones.  For me, science and natural history are not only a career but also a passion. 

Dissertation Research:
My dissertation research investigates the fitness consequences of cooperative display for dominant individuals, using natural variation in the level of cooperation in Corapipo altera(Aves: Pipridae, White-ruffed Manakin) as a model system.  Understanding the evolution of cooperative behaviors is a major goal of evolutionary biology, but the majority of research in this field has focused on why helpers assist others.  Helpers’ reproductive costs introduce a clear paradox to our understanding of natural selection as helpers in cooperative systems, by definition, sacrifice reproductive opportunities to increase others’ direct fitness.  However, it is equally important to understand whether and how cooperation benefits the dominant recipients of this help, as cooperation results from the interaction of individual that may have very different incentives for participation.  There has been relatively little attention to why the recipient of the cooperative help participates, in part because the advantage to the dominant individual seems apparent in many systems.  However, existing work reveals a variety of potential benefits for dominants, indicating that benefits for dominants may be less obvious than assumed, and to date investigations have been largely limited to cooperative breeding behavior. 

This project addresses a previously unexplored aspect of cooperative courtship display, and therefore represents a significant contribution to the more general understanding of the costs and benefits of cooperation.  Understanding of how manakin groups or societies function cooperatively sheds light on how cooperation may have evolved in other animals, including humans. 

Education and Teaching:
Beyond research, teaching and science education are very important to me.  Through my field work I’m able to mentor undergraduate students and recent graduates.  I take my role in classroom education seriously.  While teaching lab-based taxonomy courses (ornithology and herpetology), my goal is to serve as a guide as each student first learns to see differences and similarities, and then to identify the species.  Through this learning process I hope to draw out a student’s curiosity in the natural world and scientific processes.