Welcome to the Avian Ecology & Behavior Lab


Our research is broadly focused on the links between ecology, evolution, and behavior of year-round resident birds, using individual-based studies to understand variation in individual fitness and population demography. Our work examines reproductive and dispersal strategies, life history trade-offs, demography, and seed dispersal and how the changing environment impacts these processes. Lab projects include: impacts of rainfall and fragmentation on demography in understory birds in Panama, causes of variation in fitness and demography of birds in central Panama, the role of invasive vertebrates in seed dispersal in Hawaii, and life histories and demography of song sparrows in British Columbia. These projects are aimed at understanding how linkages between individual, population, and community scales are impacted by environmental changes.

Cover of Nature Climate Change issue with article on rainfall effectson tropical birds.

Brawn, J.D., T.J. Benson, Stager, Sly, and C.E. Tarwater. 2017. Rainfall and the demography of tropical birds: long-term patterns and conservation implications. Nature Climate Change

Climate impacts on demography of tropical birds across 33 years

Lab Culture and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We are deeply committed to fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion in academia. The Tarwater Lab strives to achieve this by fomenting a lab culture of recruiting and retaining budding scientists from all backgrounds, of creating a safe space for engagement and learning, valuing diverse perspectives, and treating each other with respect and kindness. We believe that diverse research groups increase productivity and creativity.  We strive to create a learning and work environment that supports all people.

We work hard, but we value work-life balance. Research is amazing! So is getting outside and enjoying the beautiful place that we live and the wonderful places that we work! 

Lab news

BIG NEWS!!! Our proposal with NSF just got funded! We will be heading to Panama this summer to start up a new project on army ant swarms and ant-following birds. Stay tuned. We will be hiring PhD students and lots of field techs! - Dec. 2021

Good luck to Becky on her new postdoc at the Cal Academy of Sciences! We will miss you! - Nov. 2021

Welcome Liz to the lab! We are excited to have you. - Sept 2021

Congratulations to Pryce and Sam on our new paper on pollinators visiting rare and endangered plants in Hawaii, published in the journal of Pollination Ecology! - Aug 2021

Congratulations to Dr. Wilcox!! Becky successfully defended her Ph.D. today and she did an amazing job! Although we are sad that Becky will be leaving us soon, we are glad she will be hanging out with us a bit longer. - Dec. 2020

Rosemary's paper on neighborhood effects on frugivory came out today in Oecologica. Congratulations Rosemary! - Oct. 2020

Sam's paper on how functional traits in avian frugivores have changed between the historic and modern assemblage is out in Functional Ecology. Congratulations Sam! - Aug. 2020

Congratulations Josephine for winning a best talk award at the NAOC! Awesome job! - Aug 2020

New article out in JFO on our long-term data from Limbo on what happens to bird communities when big treefall gaps occur in the tropics - Jan. 2020