Jessica A. Cusck
– Protection –
Department – Biological Science (Graduate Student) –
Research Field – Behavioral Ecology –
How image was captured – Digital Camera –
Research Impact & Significance – I am a behavioral ecologist interested in how and why individuals interact to form complex, social groups. I work with brown-headed nuthatches, which are cooperative breeding birds. Some young males, called helpers, remain in groups and assist other breeding pairs raise offspring instead of attempting to reproduce themselves. I am interested in why some individuals consistently help and whether individuals actually vary in their propensity to cooperate. This photograph captures an aggression trial where I am measuring the aggressive response of the two brown-headed nuthatches to a model of a red-headed woodpecker, which is a nest competitor. These aggression scores will be used to determine whether more aggressive individuals are less likely to form cooperative groups.