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MS Thesis Defense - Sarah Spier

Traffic Noise and Sexual Selection: Studies of Anthropogenic Impact on Bird Songs and Undergraduate

Date: Time: 10:00 am–11:00 am
Hardin Hall Room: Room 901
Additional Info: HARH
Contact: Joe Dauer, joseph.dauer
Humans have transformed much of the natural landscape, consequently changing
wildlife behavior. The expansion of roads has contributed to our impact on wildlife by fragmenting habitat and introducing loud traffic noise into the environment. Birds are especially susceptible to traffic noise because they rely on singing for communication, establishing territory, and mating. Different bird species may respond differently to traffic noise. Through the first study, I show how traffic noise affects the detection of birds, specifically three different species with different songs. Conducting more experiments on individual species detection will help ecologists better understand how consequences of human behavior, like traffic noise, may influence the behavior of wildlife residing near roads.

The effect of human activity on the environment should be better understood by
more than just ecologists, yet the general public lacks scientific understanding. For example, humans can impact evolutionary change, yet evolutionary concepts are challenging for people to understand and learn. When describing evolutionary change, many undergraduate biology students emphasize the importance of survival and natural selection in evolution and many leave out other important evolutionary ideas, such as reproductive potential and sexual selection. My second study shows how scenarios with different sexual selection contexts affected which ideas students included in their evolutionary reasoning.

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