Behavioral and phenotypic traits are thought to play a key role early in speciation by influencing where and when individuals come into contact and whether closely related organisms are recognized as potential mates. I am studying the prevalence and mechanistic basis of assortative mating in southern capuchino seedeaters, a highly sympatric radiation of birds in South America, to better understand the processes that limit gene flow during incipient speciation. Capuchino seedeaters are characterized by striking differences in male plumage coloration and song, yet show little ecological or genomic differentiation. My research combines fine-scale behavioral analyses with phenotypic and genomic data to investigate the importance of pre-mating processes in the generation of biodiversity.
Sheela is now a Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Kristen Ruegg at Colorado State University.