Office of Undergraduate Research

Sexual communication in treehoppers

This project will describe female preferences for male mating signals in treehoppers. (Treehoppers are plant-feeding insects that communicate with vibrational signals transmitted through plant tissue.) The idea is to use the description of preferences to generate a hypothesis about the form of sexual selection on signals. The project involves monitoring the behavior of the treehoppeers, and presenting them with artificial stimuli to evaluate their responses to variation in signal features. This project is about describing behavior. Consequently, there will be exciting moments when the treehoppers do cool things, and boring periods while you prepare the experiments and wait for the bugs to do anything.

Tasks and responsibilities:

The project will take place from April/May through December 2008. You can participate in all aspects of the project, including collecting and rearing the insects, recording their signals, preparing playback stimuli, conducting the experiments, and analyzing the recordings. Although there is a field component (collecting), most of the project will occur in the lab.You will learn to use a laser vibrometer for recording signals, equipment for playback of vibrational signals, and software to present the playbacks and to analyze the recordings.