Research Overview

NEWS

I have recently begun a tenure track position as assistant professor in the Department of Biology at James Madison University.

July 2020 – Two new graduate students joined the lab – Welcome Sasha Ewing and Jaclyn Tolchin! They’re great additions to the team along with Shannon Eppert, who’s entering the second year of her master’s. The four of us managed to do about a month of field work in July despite COVID-19.

May 2020 – The first set of students fledged from the Moseley Lab. Graduates include: Morgan Rhodes successfully presented her Master’s Thesis and is  preparing two manuscripts for publication on the topics of song and aggressive responses differences across an urban gradient! Go, Morgan!
Chris Will and Lizzy Neslund presented their honors theses on the topics of how urban habitats impact mimicry and song entropy, respectively.
Lauren O’Brien conducted independent research on vocal acrobatics of the catbird.
I’m so proud of all of you – my first nest!

Aug 2019 New paper out in collaboration with David Luther, Liz Derryberry, and Jenny Phillips on how white-crowned sparrow songs change over ~50 years in urban and rural habitats in Behavioral Ecology.

Paper out with the Derryberry and Luther labs on cultural evolution in response to anthropogenic noise in Proceedings of the Royal Society!

RESEARCH OVERVIEW

My research interests lie broadly in evolution, ecology, and animal behavior. Specifically, I aim to understand how communication signals function in interactions within species, whether in male-male competition or in female choice, or between species concerning the broader communication network. Another major theme of my research involves how anthropogenic noise (“noise pollution”) and urbanization impact communication systems.

My research program at JMU addresses questions about the effects of urbanization and noise on the song and breeding behavior of the Gray Catbird. From the National Mall in DC to rural sites in Shenandoah River Valley I am examining how songs and ecological communities differ in the presence of noise. See a blog I wrote for the Smithsonian NZP about this research here.

I continue to collaborate with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center as a Research Associate, following my postdoctoral fellowship. For this work, Brandt Ryder, Brian Evans, Pete Marra, and I have been tracking the migration routes of gray catbirds from a variety of breeding habitats to their stop-over and wintering grounds. We’re interest in what environmental factors impact the timing and direction of migration. Might the urbanization level of their breeding grounds affect where and when they go? Check out Brandt’s blog about our work and the super GIF of their migration routes here!

As a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at William and Mary, I both developed my teaching skills and conducted research on how bird communities respond to broadband noise. In field and lab tests, my collaborators and I examined how “sonic net” technology may be used to deter birds from socio-economically important areas such as farms, airports, and wind turbines. [See recent press about our paper in The Economist, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail.]

In my dissertation, I focused on vocal performance in the swamp sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), a species in which females have been shown to prefer songs with high vocal performance, i.e. with comparatively fast trill rates and broad frequency bandwidths. Males are limited by physiological and other factors in the vocal performance they can achieve. Thus, sexual selection by females is hypothesized to push these vocal features to individual performance limits. But how do females come by these preferences? My dissertation research sought to address this question alongside questions of signal development and function in the wild.

Learn more about these topics on the Research Page.