Dr. Maren Vitousek

Ph.D. Princeton University

B.A. Amherst College

My research is motivated by a fascination with the relationships between internal physiological processes and external behavioral interactions, and with making causal connections between these processes and their evolutionary outcomes.  I am currently investigating the physiological modulation of life history trade-offs and the costs of sexual signaling and signal assessment. I am also particularly interested in how physiological ecology can help to solve pressing problems in conservation.

Please also visit Maren’s Website



Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Andrew McGowan

Ph.D. Scheffield University

B.Sc. University of Glasgow

Principally, I am field based behavioural ecologist who uses avian models to test evolutionary theories. I also have strong conservation interests, particularly of tropical seabird populations. My research interests are wide and varied covering from cooperative breeding and the alternative strategies of individuals in groups and their fitness consequences to multiple paternity in sea turtles and coconut crab and sea cucumber conservation strategies. I also have interests in sexual selection and mate choice as well as the potential role of parasites in species-species competition. Currently, I have ongoing research in roost formation and the associated costs and benefits of specific positions with regards to the trade offs between starvation and predation and I have on going collaborations with R. Safran, University of Colorado; S.P. Sharp University of Cambridge; B.J. Hatchwell University of Sheffield; M.J. Wood, University of Oxford; C.R.C. Sheppard & A.R.G. Price, University of Warwick; W Fuller, European University of Lefke; and B.J. Godley, Dr A. C. Broderick & J.D. Blount University of Exeter.


Matthew Reed Wilkins

B.S. Vanderbilt University

I am interested in the roles of behavior and sexual selection in population divergence.  Specifically I  want to look into geographical variation in male song among breeding populations of barn swallow subspecies in order to better understand how female mate choice decisions are driving phenotypic differentiation in this species.


Joanna Hubbard

M.S College of William and Mary

B.S. University of Arizona

Broadly I am interested in visual ecology and evolution. More specifically, I am interested in animal coloration and how that coloration can act as a signal to other animals. My research focuses on the role of sexual selection in animal coloration and how mate choice and competition can drive the evolution of exaggerated color traits.


Graduate Students

Yoni Vortman

Ph.D. Program - University of Tel-Aviv, Israel

B.Sc., Tel Aviv University

Mate choice and the evolution of sexual signals in the East-Mediterranean barn swallow. The East-Mediterranean subspecies possess two ornamental traits, long tail streamers and dark ventral coloration. We are trying to determine whether both traits affect mate choice and the evolution of those multiple traits controlling for the phylogeny of the barn swallow subspecies complex.


Undergraduate Students

Dr. Rebecca Safran                                                                                CV

I joined the faculty in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in January 2008. My integrative research program currently focuses on the causes and consequences of biodiversity from multiple scales and levels of analysis. This includes experimental studies of phenotypic differentiation in a widespread songbird species complex (the barn swallows), with research sites throughout Boulder County, western Europe and the Middle East, and larger-scale analyses of the evolutionary history of the family of birds in which barn swallows are a member (Hirundinidae). We are also interested in the dynamical relationship between physiology and morphology that provide essential insights into the information content of the traits that are most variable and divergent both within and among our study populations. My recently awarded NSF grant on speciation in barn swallows has a complementary Broader Impacts plan which includes a collaborative film-making course with ATLAS (the Alliance for Science and Technology) – an integrative educational program based on CU’s campus. An American Association of University Women fellow, I have a particular interest in issues related to women in science. Our research has received widespread media attention via a recent series produced by PBS Nature in addition to multiple national and international television, radio, and news outlets, for example, this CNN piece on barn swallow color.

Primary Investigator

Andrew Flynn

University of Colorado - EBIO Honors student and BA-MA program

Andrew is interested in the effects of predation on pair bond loyalty. Through nestling paternity, he is hoping to shed light on whether increased predation rates near a nesting site cause female birds to stray from the pair bond or it causes the pair bond to be strengthened.

Andrew has received funding from UROP and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for his independent research.


Other Lab Members

Christine Avena

Lab Volunteer

B.A. Colby College

Christine is interested in Behavioral Ecology, specifically mutual mate choice in zebra finches. Her previous research focused on tests of the "good genes" hypothesis in a captive finch population. Christine has also completed field work on conservation issues in Ecuador and bird behavior studies in the woods of Maine.


Julie Marling

Lab volunteer


Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology Research Group

at the University of Colorado - Boulder

Primary Investigator - Rebecca Safran

Dr. Rebecca Safran, Assistant Professor

University of Colorado at Boulder

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

CB334, Ramaley N395

Boulder, CO 80309

Office Phone :: (303) 735 - 1495

Lab Alumni

Connor Fitzhugh

Connor is interested in many different aspects of biology, from protein topology to mathematical models of migration.  Through an HHMI grant, he is currently looking at paternal allocation of antioxidants to barn swallow nestlings.  With simultaneous efforts to molecularly determine the sex of these nestlings, Connor hopes to show if  a sex specific bias exists in this population's parental care.

Connor is now a graduate student at Humboldt State University


Rachel Wildrick

University of Colorado - EBIO Honors student and BA-MA program

Rachel is an undergraduate student new to the lab January 2009. Using data we've collected both summer 2008 and 2009 she is looking at paternity over individual barn swallow lifetimes and their corresponding mating strategies. For her honor's thesis, Rachel  also has hopes to examine how testosterone and reproductive success  relate to one another within a single mating season. Rachel has received funding from UROP for her independent research.


Brittany Jenkins

Lab Research Assistant Extraordinaire!

B.S. in Physiology and Zoology (with honors), University of Wyoming

Brittany comes to us with extensive expertise in plant population genetics and is now running the our molecular lab.  Among the many things that Brittany excels at: keeping our lab organized and running smoothly, optimizing microsatellites, and fighting with genemapper technical support assistants.  


Monica Brandhuber

New Vista High School


Kathy Chmiel

University of Colorado

Kathy Chmiel is investigating the relationship between morphology and barn swallow immunology, specifically in female barn swallows.  She also hopes to examine immune system compositions as a predictor of mate choice, offspring success and the overall health & stress response in barn swallows.  This is her first year working in the Safran Lab.  

University of Colorado

Kate is a summer field researcher and UROP recipient for 2010. 


Kate Gloeckner

University of Colorado

Haley is a summer undergraduate research assistant for 2010. 


Haley Biddle

University of Colorado

Eric is an undergraduate research assistant for 2010 and does feather color analyses.


Eric Lord