Penn Science Café: Sex, Courtship, and Bird Behavior Go High Tech

Dr. Marc Schmidt, Professor of Biology, University of Pennsylvania
- | Morris Arboretum & Gardens
100 East Northwestern Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19104
Picture: Marc Schmidt

Join us for an engaging, stimulating conversation, with a Q&A session following the talk.

During the breeding season, male birds work very hard to impress potential partners, often using complex courtship rituals involving song and movement. The females carefully assess these advances and send subtle (and not so subtle) cues to let males know what they think. In species that live in groups, these courtship dialogues can become quite complex, because individuals must assess competition from others. What is going on in their bird brains during all this?

Enter the “smart aviary,” equipped with an array of cameras, microphones, and other devices. Professor of Biology Marc Schmidt will discuss the work his lab is doing with colleagues from engineering and physics to evaluate moment-to-moment behavioral interactions between each bird in the group. Eventually, Schmidt hopes to evaluate brain dynamics during these social interactions using miniature, non-invasive, wirelessly powered and transmitting neural recording devices—an illustration of the emergong field of “neuroscience in a naturalistic context,” which studys how brains operate in complex social environments.