Saturday, April 19, 2014


A male house wren poses for the camera during the summer of 2011

My names is Cara Krieg and I'm a graduate student at Michigan State University in Tom Getty's lab.  This summer I'll be blogging about the research the undergrads in our lab and I will be doing a local population of house wrens.  For more information about my research, check out my professional website at

So why "birds in boxes"?  First, I study house wrens, a small species of song birds that needs to find a tree
hollow or nest box to build their nest.  They're great for research because if you put out boxes, the birds will come to you!  Second,  I hope that my work will help blur the boundaries of the boxes we put around male and female behavior.  In human society we have certain stereotypes about how men and women should behavior.  Men are seen as more competitive, more likely to get into a fist fight in a bar or be into sports, whereas women as seen as more nurturing and maternal, more likely to be focused on relationships and to be nice to your face.  In the scientific world, scientists have similar expectations.  Male animals are a lot more likely to be in fierce fights or to have elaborate ornaments and behaviors to attract the attention of females.  However, as anyone who's paid attention to people knows, reality is a lot more complicated than these boxes.  It turns out nature is a lot more complicated too!  I focus on two traits in female house wrens- female-female aggression and song- that have historically been considered male behaviors.  I'm trying to understand why these female behaviors exist, how they differ from males, and maybe how males and females are more similar than we first thought!

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