News from the Animal Behavior Graduate Group

May 2017

Sean Ehlman awarded both a 2017-2018 UC Davis Dissertation Year Fellowship and an ARCS Scholarship

Sean Ehlman has been awarded both a 2017-2018 UC Davis Dissertation Year Fellowship and an ARCS Scholarship that will fund his final year with the ABGG. During this time, he will continue working on both his empirical and theoretical work investigating behavioral responses to environmental change. Using ARCS funding, he also plans on expanding his research to investigate genomic signatures of adaptation to environmental change!

April 2017

Cameron Jones was awarded an Animal Behavior Society Student Research Grant

The Animal Behavior Society’s Student Research Grants are designed to provide resources for junior graduate students to investigate proposed research topics that push the field of animal behavior. Cameron’s proposal to study the role of behavioral phenotypes on invasive and native species interactions combines ecological and lab-based studies on the invasive brown widow, Latrodectus geometricus, and native western black widow, L. hesperus. The goal of this study will be to provide insight into the behavioral mechanisms that facilitate the establishment of invasive species. In doing so, Cameron hopes to begin providing a framework for understanding the interaction between behavioral variation and species invasions and its associated ecological effects.

March 2017

Allí Injaian was awarded the Professors for the Future Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year

Professors for the Future is a year-long, competitive program run through UC Davis Grad Studies, which serves to recognize and develop the leadership skills of graduate students who have shown commitment to professionalism, integrity and academic service. Through this program, graduate students develop a project that addresses a challenge associated with graduate education and postdoctoral training. Alli's project focuses on training graduate students and post docs on inclusive mentoring, with the specific goals of providing mentors with effective and efficient strategies to maintain a diverse group of undergraduate mentees. 

October 2016

Donald R. Williams, a 1st year graduate student in Karen Bales’ lab, recently published two papers

The first was a first-author manuscript investigating oxytocin (OT) as an experimental therapeutic for schizophrenia published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. Donald’s primary research investigates the opposing effects of OT on social behavior by characterizing oxytocin receptor (OTR) activation of distinct intracellular signaling pathways in prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster), a social monogamous species. His research will have two broad implications: 1) elucidating the basic biology of social behavior; and 2) providing a foundation from which to build translational work for individuals that suffer from social disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism.


His second paper exploring quantitative methods, such as meta-analysis, from a Bayesian perspective was accepted for publication in the journal Psychological Science.  Donald learned early in his career that a commonality between all disciplines is statistics and that reasonable inferences are dependent upon properly specified statistical models. This realization and passion has allowed for international collaborations with researchers from Canada, Germany, and Sweden. While not directly related to the field of animal behavior, his publication in Psychological Science contributes to our shared body of knowledge concerning quantitative methods and thus ensuring rigor in the scientific literature. Moreover, Donald is a proponent of Bayesian multilevel modeling and will use these techniques to answer questions about animal behavior. Pre-print available here:

August 2016

Gail Patricelli receives Faculty Teaching Award

Professor Gail Patricelli, Department of Evolution and Ecology, was honored with the 2016 College of Biological Sciences Faculty Teaching Award. This distinction recognizes excellence in teaching through enthusiasm and effectiveness of instruction, application of technology and innovation in the classroom, and mentorship and motivation of students. (Full story)

John Wingfield awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Bangor University, UK

John Wingfield, a Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair in Physiology in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior won two major awards this summer.  He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Bangor University, UK for services to the biological sciences, and he received the Margaret Morse Nice Medal from the Wilson Ornithological Society for contributions to avian research. The latter included a plenary lecture at the North American Ornithological Congress in August 2016.

May 2016

Sarah Adcock received the David Tuber Applied Animal Behavior Award from the Animal Behavior Society

This award is presented annually to one graduate student in the Americas to promote excellence in research into Applied Animal Behavior.  It will help support Sarah’s PhD research on the long-term welfare implications of hot-iron disbudding in dairy calves.

April 2016

Gabrielle Names awarded the Graduate Research Mentorship Fellowship

Gabrielle Names was awarded a Graduate Research Mentorship Fellowship for the upcoming academic year. The 12-month fellowship is intended to support students at the beginning of their PhD research and who demonstrate a clear commitment to promoting diversity in academia. During the fellowship period, Gabrielle plans to continue working on her PhD research involving avian malaria in the Hawaii Amakihi, a forest bird endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago. She hopes to identify how immune function, hormone levels, and behavior may be contributing to Amakihi tolerance to avian malaria that appears to be evolving in some populations superexposed to the disease, as well as shed light on the consequences that this tolerance may have on physiology and behavior. 

February 2016

Sarah Adcock selected as UC Davis Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA) graduate student fellow

"The Research and Innovation Fellowship in Agriculture (RIFA) provides graduate students with the opportunity to implement 2-6 month-long international projects in developing countries. As a RIFA fellow, I will travel to Sri Lanka for two months to conduct collaborative cattle welfare research with the University of Peradeniya. I will participate in an ongoing research program that aims to develop an on-farm welfare assessment tool for dairy cattle in Sri Lanka. My work will focus on identifying and describing measures to include in the welfare assessment, as well as the application and evaluation of the assessment through farm visits."  ~Sarah Adcock

November 2015

Marta Hersek 1961-2014

Dr. Marta Hersek who received her PhD from the Animal Behavior Graduate Group with Professor Don Owings passed away recently.  Her PhD produced widely cited papers in Animal Behaviour on antipredator behavior in California ground squirrels in response to snakes, and on reproductive behavior and multiple paternity in California ground squirrels.  Later studies included work on effects of forest fragmentation on cowbird brood parasitism rates.  Her obituary in the Boston Globe can be found at

October 2015

Lynne Isbell elected a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences

In October, 2015, Lynne Isbell was elected a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, an honor bestowed upon scientists, according to the Cal Academy’s website, “in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the natural sciences”.  Isbell’s particular career-long contributions have focused on investigating primate relationships with food and predators, two exceedingly important selective forces operating to influence animal behavior.

September 2015

Maja Makagon awarded the New Investigator Award from the International Society for Applied Ethology

Maja Makagon received the New Investigator Award from the International Society for Applied Ethology  (ISAE). The award recognizes early career researchers who have demonstrated scientific excellence and/or an exceptional aptitude for carrying out research in applied ethology. Maja's work on duck gait and dedication to undergraduate and graduate student mentorship was emphasized during the awards ceremony that took place at the annual meeting of the ISAE in Sapporo, Japan ( The New Investigator Award was established in 2013. Only one award is given each year.

June 2015

Andy Sih awarded the Exemplar Award from the international Animal Behavior Society

Andy Sih was awarded the Exemplar Award from the international Animal Behavior Society for his long-term contributions to animal behavior.  In particular, he was recognized for almost four decades of research on a broad range of topics in animal behavior including: predator-prey interactions, sexual selection and sexual conflict, his seminal work on behavioral syndromes (aka animal personalities) for which he earlier won the ABS’ Quest Award, and most recently, his research on behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC).  The award was announced at the recent annual meeting of the ABS in Anchorage, AK.  Out of only 18 winners of this prestigious award over its history, FOUR have been members of the Animal Behavior Graduate Group here at Davis: Judy Stamps (1995), John Wingfield (2008), Donald Owings (2010) and now Andy Sih.

The Richard G. Coss Wildlife Research Fund

Professor Richard (Dick) Coss and his wife, Janis Coss have donated funds to establish the Richard G. Coss Wildlife Research Fund to provide about $5000 per year of support to graduate students doing field research in the Animal Behavior Graduate Group.  In particular,  this fund is targeted to help pay for international travel, international living expenses, and/or equipment necessary for an Award recipient’s research.  Professor Coss retired last year after a long career here at UC Davis as a highly productive, extraordinarily innovative, interdisciplinary animal behaviorist.  Beyond his research per se, he also contributed a great deal to the ABGG in terms of teaching and service. 

May 2015

Allison Injaian wins the ARCS!

"The ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) scholarship provides a $10,000 stipend to select graduate students in the STEM fields, with the goal of advancing science and technology worldwide. While supported by this scholarship, I will conduct conservation-focused research that aims to identify potential negative impacts of anthropogenic noise on tree swallows, a native songbird, through behavioral and physiological assays. I will also expand beyond the individual level, and study larger-scale effects of noise on ecological communities" ~Allison Injaian

Allison Injaian receives Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award

"Each year, UC Davis Graduate Studies and the Graduate Council call for nominations for their 'Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award', to recognize teaching excellence on the UC Davis campus. I am thrilled that my students nominated me and I received this award. It serves as further motivation to create positive, active, and fun learning environments in an attempt to keep all students engaged in the sciences." ~Allison Injaian

Jennifer Chen wins first place in student competition!

Jennifer won first place in the student competition for her poster "Cooling dairy cows efficiently with water: Effects of soaker flow rate on body temperature and behavior" at the 2015 California Animal Nutrition Conference in Fresno, CA held May 6-7.

March 2015

Myfanwy Johnston awarded the Leland Roy Saxon and Georgia Wood Saxon Fellowship

I am thrilled and honored to accept a Leland Roy Saxon and Georgia Wood Saxon Fellowship.  My Ph.D. research at UC Davis focuses on native migratory fish species in the floodplain of the Central Valley.  The project began in 2012 with the overarching goal of investigating the movement behavior of different types of migrants in the Yolo Bypass, an intensely altered seasonal floodplain in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  The Bypass, which occupies the extensive historic floodplain of the lowermost Sacramento River, is managed for a mix of uses, including farming, riparian and managed wetland habitat, tidal marsh habitat, upland and grassland habitat, and flood control.  Given substantial evidence over nearly fifteen years for its benefits to native fishes during flooded periods, the Bypass has become the focus of interest in managing seasonally flooded habitat in the Delta.  Upon completion, this project will compare and contrast the movements of semelparous and iteroparous migrant types (Chinook salmon and white sturgeon, respectively) while navigating the Yolo Bypass, as well as the factors affecting their migratory success, which may include life stage, migratory route, and response to passage barriers.  Understanding how these animals move through their environment is a fundamental part of determining how the landscape is best managed to promote successful migrations while still supporting human demands.

~ Myfanwy Johnston

Anna Perry awarded Professors for the Future fellowship

The Professors for the Future (PFTF) program is a competitive, year-long fellowship designed to recognize and develop the academic leadership skills of outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. As a PFTF fellow (2015-2016), Anna will develop a workshop series to teach both graduate and postdoctoral mentors strategies for providing effective feedback on undergraduate scientific writing. While working to enhance the professional development of her colleagues, Anna will also receive formal training in course design and teaching methods through a seminar on College Teaching.

Allison Injaian Publication in Animal Behaviour 

Allison's research paper, conducted while obtaining her Master's degree at the University of Michigan, will be published in the April issue of Animal Behaviour. The paper titled Advertised quality and resource value affect aggression and social vigilance in paper wasp contests can be found here.

Allison Injaian receives an Animal Behavior Society Student Research Award!

October 2014

Lynne Isbell wins the 2014 W. W. Howells Book Prize 

Lynne Isbell's book, The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent: Why We See So Well (published by Harvard University Press, 2009), has won the 2014 W. W. Howells Book Prize.  The Prize is awarded by the Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association to honor a book within biological anthropology.  According to the AAA, such works "should represent the highest standard of scholarship and readability.  They should inform a wider audience of the significance of physical/biological anthropology in the social and biological sciences, and demonstrate a biocultural perspective.  In her book "Isbell develops her intriguing “Snake Detection Theory,” arguing that snake predation was an important influence on primate evolution and that selection for the ability to detect snakes played a major role in the evolution of the primate visual system."  The Prize will be awarded in December at the annual meeting of the AAA in Washington, D.C.

Lynne Isbell publication in Science

The first publication arising from Lynne's current research on leopard movement ecology is a co-authored paper that came out this month in Science.  

            Ford, A.T., Goheen, J.R., Otieno, T.O., Bidner, L., Isbell, L.A., Palmer, T.M., Ward, D., Woodroffe, R., and Pringle, R.M. 2014.
            Large carnivores make savanna tree communities less thorny. Science 346:346-349.

September 2014

Andy Sih delivered the once-a-year, Carmody Lecture at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The title of his lecture was “Behavioral syndromes: implications for sexual selection, ecological invasions and host-parasite dynamics”.  During his visit, Andy also gave a second research talk on "Understanding variation in behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC)", and he was interviewed for a short video entitled "What do biologists do?" posted on YouTube, highlighting a few bits of his personal history, inspirations and advice for undergraduates.

Check the video out at:

Conor Taff publishes a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B

Conor Taff, who recently completed his PhD and won several major awards (see below) published a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B entitled, “Fluctuations in Neighbourhood Fertility Generate Variable Signaling Effort”.  In this paper, Taff and his co-authors used autonomous recording devices and song detection algorithms to characterize singing throughout the breeding season in a population of Common Yellowthroat warblers. This approach allowed them to identify over 115,000 songs produced by focal individuals in our population over two breeding seasons. Using these data, they found strong evidence that males sing less when their mate is fertile, but sing more when females on nearby territories are fertile. This result is consistent with the idea that males maximize their breeding success by avoiding cuckoldry on their home territory, while simultaneously advertising their availability to extra-pair mates. The patterns that they observed suggest that males monitor a complex social environment and adjust their singing effort to match subtle changes in female fertility on territories up to 400 meters away.

Congratulations to Conor Taff for winning a trifecta of major awards in 2014!

Conor was awarded the Merton Love Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Ecology and Evolution at UC Davis, which goes to the student with the most outstanding PhD dissertation in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Davis each year.  Conor was also awarded the Cooper Ornithological Society Young Professional’s Award, which is given to two young scientists each year for outstanding research and contributions to the ornithological profession. To top off his winning streak, Conor was awarded the Animal Behavior Society Warder Clyde Allee Award for best paper and oral presentation by a finishing PhD student at the Animal Behavior Society meeting at Princeton University.  These are all the top awards given to young scientists in their fields.  Conor was awarded a PhD in Animal behavior in 2013 working with Professor Gail Patricelli at UC Davis, and is now a USDA postdoctoral fellow with Professor Andrea Townsend at UC Davis.

Conor’s winning the Allee Award, the top award for a young animal behaviorist in North America continues a strong UC Davis tradition.  In recent years, other UC Davis students winning this award include Aaron Rundus in 2006, Karen Mabry in 2007 and Julia Saltz in 2012.  Conor’s major advisor, Gail Patricelli also won the Allee Award in 2002.

June 2014

Graduate students win big at the North American Regional Meeting of the International Society for Applied Ethology

Jennifer Chen and Mary Bonaparte-Saller attended the North American Regional Meeting of the International Society for Applied Ethology at Michigan State University (May 30-31) and won first place in the graduate student oral presentation competition, and third place in the graduate student poster competition, respectively.

April 2014

Graduate research fellowship program offers announced

Ryane Logsdon is among the 2014 class of awardees. Click here for the complete list.

February 2014

Jennifer Chen awarded the Lillie May Richards Fellowship
Jennifer Chen was awarded the Lillie May Richards Fellowship for the study of dairying for 2014-2015 by the UCD Office of Graduate Studies. She is extremely grateful to be a fourth-time recipient of this fellowship.

Jessica Yorzinski receives press for her peafowl eye-tracking study
Jessica Yorzinski receives press for her peafowl eye-tracking study, which was her dissertation research:

Andy Sih gives invited talks
Andy Sih gave invited talks at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and Debrecen University in Hungary on the evolution and social ecology of animal personalities, and on developing theory to better understand variation in behavioral responses to human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC).

January 2014

Nick DiRienzo received the UC Davis Dissertation Year Fellowship for the 2014-15 academic year

Andy Sih was the vice chair and co-organizer of the first Gordon Research Conference on Predator-Prey Interactions in Ventura, CA
Andy Sih was the vice chair and co-organizer of the first Gordon Research Conference on Predator-Prey Interactions in Ventura, CA, January 5-10, 2014. The theme was an interdisciplinary approach to understanding effects of fear on individuals (including human PTSD), populations, communities and ecosystems. Andy gave the closing talk on developing a theoretical framework to better understand responses of naïve prey to exotic, introduced predators. What explains why some prey respond appropriately to novel predators that they have never seen before, while other prey suffer high death rates because they do not respond well to novel predators?

Sean Ehlman attends workshop in Trondheim, Norway
ABGG student and Sih lab member Sean Ehlman attended a workshop on "Evolution in Stochastic Environments" attended by a select group of both empiricists and theoreticians working on the myriad types of adaptations to environmental unpredictability. Sean presented two recent models: one on bet-hedging in a heterogenous landscape and the other on predator/prey detection theory in uncertain predation regimes.

November 2013

Gail Patricelli chosen as a Chancellor's Fellow for 2014
In recognition of her research, teaching and service activities, Professor Patricelli has been named one of the 2013-2014 Chancellor's Fellows and will receive a $25,000 one-time award to be used in support of her work. The Chancellor's Fellows Program is supported in part by funds from the Davis Chancellor's Club and the Annual Fund of the University of California, Davis. The program was established in 2000 to honor the achievements of outstanding faculty members early in their careers.

October 2013

Lynne Isbell's research on snakes and primates attracts news media attention
Lynne Isbell's research on the effects of snakes on primate vision has again generated extensive media coverage following a paper published with her collaborators in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

These have included an summary description of the work and an interview with NPR's All Things Considered


The Scientist

National Geographic

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

and even farther away in Australia

and Germany

October 2013

Jennifer Phillips received an ARCS fellowship for 2013-2014 academic year
Jennifer Chen received a travel award from Human Society International/Humane Society of the United States to deliver an oral presentation, "Dairy cattle preferences for sprinklers delivering different water volumes." The award was for travel to the annual congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, which was held in Florianopolis, Brazil.

May 2013

Jennifer Chen received a travel award from Human Society International/Humane Society of the United States

April 2013

ABGG grad wins award for outstanding dissertation
Maxine Zylberberg, a 2011 ABGG grad and past Hahn lab member, won the 2013 Allen G. Marr prize, awarded by the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies. The Allen G. Marr prize, established in honor of longtime former Dean of Graduate Studies Allen G. Marr, recognizes top-notch dissertation work.

Jennifer Chen Receives Multiple Accolades
ABGG student and Tucker Lab Member Jennifer Chen received multiple accolades on campus this month! Jennifer won the People's Choice Award for Best Oral Presentation at the annual UC Davis Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Symposium on April 5. Jennifer also received the Lillie May Richards fellowship, a fellowship awarded through the Office of Graduate Studies to students studying dairying.

January 2013

Teresa makes the Times
A major media outlet has once again highlighted the research of ABGG alum Teresa Iglesias. The New York Times featured Teresa's research on Western Scrub Jays in this January 2013 article.