The Nowicki Lab at Duke University



Steve Nowicki

Bass Fellow and Professor

Steve's research explores proximate mechanisms underlying the evolution of behavior. He is especially interested in the structure, function, and evolution of animal communication systems, using bird song as a model system.

Susan Peters

Research Associate

Susan is an expert in the area of bird song learning and development. Her current research addresses questions about the functions of song in adult birds and the effects of song development – particularly in different environmental conditions – on these functions.

Jill Soha

Associate Scholar

Jill's research is focused on comparative study of bird song learning, particularly its mechanisms and functional consequences. Before coming to Duke, she was Curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics at The Ohio State University.

Clara Howell

Graduate Student

Clara is a first-year graduate student interested in sexual signaling, cognitive ability, and brain development. She recently finished a Master's degree at the University of Tennessee, working with Dr. Liz Derryberry on the effects of heat stress on avian cognition.

Matthew Zipple

Graduate Student Affiliate

Matthew (Alberts Lab) is broadly interested in animal social behaviors, including signalling and information extraction. He is collaborating with the Nowicki lab to investigate categorical perception of visual signals.

Daniel Andrussier


Daniel is a sophomore bringing both knowledge of birds and passion for biology to the Nowicki Lab. He intends to double major in biology and political science. When he's not studying or running through mud and thorn bushes with his camera, you might find him on the basketball court where he commonly gets mistaken for one of Duke's starting players.

Heather Berman


Heather is a sophomore studying Biology and Music with a vocal performance concentration. When she is not exploring her interests in animal behavior and marine biology, she is spreading her love of music and performance as a member of Duke Opera Workshop.

Dhanya Bharath

Undergraduate Affiliate

Dhanya is a senior undergraduate at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, who worked in the lab as a Khorana Scholar. Dhanya hopes to pursue research in behavioral ecology, as well as do her bit for wildlife conservation, sustainable living, and education. Dhanya is also passionate about Indian classical music and dance and exploring classical languages.

Lindsey Kinsella


Lindsey is a senior studying Biology and Music with plans to pursue graduate school and a job in animal conservation. When she's not in the lab, you'll find her rehearsing with the Duke Chorale, performing in a Hoof 'n' Horn show, or volunteering with Camp Kesem.

Megan Knauer


Megan is a second-year student studying neuroscience and global health. When not working with the birds she does research on low-value care at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, mentors middle school students with The Girls Club, and is a coxswain with the women's varsity rowing team.

Katja Kochvar


Katja is a senior studying Biology and German with hopes of pursuing graduate school in ecology and animal behavior. This year she is completing an honors thesis in the lab, examining age-related changes in song sparrow song. When Katja's not singing with the sparrows, she enjoys playing on the Duke Women's Ultimate Frisbee team and exploring the great outdoors.

Cydney Livingston


Cydney is a sophomore studying Biology and History and is interested in evolutionary biology, ecology and conservation. She is also intrigued by how different forms of scientific education and initiatives can be used to bridge the gap between academia and the public sphere. Outside of her work in the lab, Cydney is a Peer Advisor, writes for Duke’s Research Blog, plays Club Volleyball, and is deeply involved in her social organization, Illyria.

Sarah Mumbert


Sarah is a senior studying a self-designed Program II entitled, "Forensic Justice and Criminal Studies." She desires to fix our country's systemic inequality and rescue as many cats as she can! In her free time, Sarah adopts and cares for old shelter cats, and she is excited to be taking care of birds as well.

Morgan Patton


Morgan is a sophomore studying animal behavior and hopefully marine biology. She is a member of Duke's equestrian team and she loves to paint and draw. Morgan also is interested in conducting research on the effects of different types of training on equine neurological and physical development and stress levels.

Jordan Sokoloff


Jordan is a sophomore studying Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology with hopes of pursuing graduate school and a career in veterinary medicine. Outside of the lab, she is involved in Duke's equestrian team and puppy kindergarten, and also shadows at Triangle Veterinary Hospital.

Nia Williams


Nia is a first-year pre-vet student pursuing a Program II major. Outside the lab, she is an intern for the Duke University Union (DUU) Campus Concerts Committee, a committed volunteer at the Duke Puppy Kindergarten, and a Reginaldo Howard Scholar. Nia hopes to study either wildlife medicine or neurological veterinary medicine one day.

Lab Grad Student and Postdoc Alumni
  Research Topics Current Position
Rindy Anderson – Postdoc/RS 2007-2014 Signal reliability & female song preferences Assistant Professor, Florida Atlantic University
Barbara Ballentine – PhD 2006 Vocal performance and mate choice Associate Professor, Western Carolina University
Martin Beebee – PhD 2003 Sexual selection on multiple song types Martin Beebee Photography, Colorado Springs, CO
Eleanor Caves – Postdoc 2018-19 Visual ecology & perception Marie Curie Research Fellow, University of Exeter
Elizabeth Derryberry – PhD 2007 Mechanisms of song evolution Associate Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Renee Duckworth – PhD 2006 Plasticity in reproductive investment & behavior Associate Professor, University of Arizona
Bill Hoese – PhD 1998 Functional morphology of bird jaws Professor, Cal State Fullerton
Patrick Green – Postdoc 2018-19 Assessment and animal contests Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Exeter
Melissa Hughes – Postdoc 1994-96 Signal form and function Professor, College of Charleston
Jeremy Hyman – Postdoc 2001-06 Individual variation in aggression in birds Professor, Western Carolina University
Silke Kipper – Postdoc 2004-05 Mate choice mechanisms in birds Senior Researcher, Technische Universität München
Casey Klofstad – Associate 2013-14 Human social and political behavior Associate Professor, University of Miami
Rob Lachlan – Postdoc 2010-2013 Cultural evolution of bird song Lecturer, Royal Holloway University of London
Irene Liu – PhD/Postdoc 2008-2016 Evolution of mating systems Associate Producer, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
Bernie Lohr – PhD 1995 Song production & perception Associate Professor, University of MD, Baltimore County
Sheila Patek – PhD 2001 Physics & evolution: animal fast movements Professor, Duke University
Jeff Podos – PhD 1996 Mechanisms & evolution of vertebrate behavior Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Denise Pope – PhD 1998 Evolution of exaggerated & costly displays Program Coordinator, CIRTL
Jonathan Prather – Postdoc 2005-08 Neural mechanisms of behavior Associate Professor, University of Wyoming
Kimberly Rosvall – PhD 2009 The evolution of female aggression Assistant Professor, Indiana University
John Rowden – PhD 1996 Evolution of Australian parrot display behavior Director, Community Conservation, Audubon Society
Kendra Sewall – Postdoc 2010-12 Behavioral plasticity & neural mechanisms Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech
Christopher Sturdy – Postdoc 2000-01 Neuroethology of bird song Professor, University of Alberta
Mark Westneat – Postdoc 1991-92 Systematics, biomechanics & biodiversity Professor, University of Chicago
Stacey Weiss – PhD 1999 Reproductive behavior & animal communication Professor, University of Puget Sound
Tammy Windfelder – PhD 1997 Primate communication & social behavior Associate Professor, Drew University

Nowicki Lab
Department of Biology
Box 90338, Duke University
Durham, NC  27708-0338  USA
Lab phone: 919-684-6950