Uy receives prestigious NSF CAREER Award
Uy receives prestigious NSF CAREER Award April 03, 2007Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
J. Albert C. Uy, assistant professor of biology in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, NSF’s most prestigious and competitive award for young faculty members. Developed in 1995, this award program recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, show exceptional potential for leadership.
Awards typically range from $200,000 to $500,000 and are in duration from four to five years. Uy’s award is for $536,421 for five years to fund his project “CAREER: Factors that Shape the Evolution of Multimodal Signals in the Chestnut-Bellied Flycatcher Monarcha castaneiventris.”
Using a combination of observational, genetic and experimental approaches, Uy’s research project aims to uncover the processes that generate signal and species diversity. Animals use a diverse set of signals of different sensory modes (multimodal signals) to facilitate social interactions. For example, most birds use unique acoustic (song) and visual (colorful plumage) signals in attracting mates or defending territories. Recent studies indicate that these multimodal signals are important in distinguishing and maintaining species; however, the underlying reasons why signals are so diverse among species remain little understood.
Populations of the chestnut-bellied flycatcher (Monarcha castaneiventris) show dramatic variation in song and plumage color throughout its range in the Solomon Islands. The work will test whether island groups differ in forest habitat, social structure and abundances of feather-degrading bacteria, and whether this variation is linked to the observed differences in song and color among the flycatcher populations.
The scientific component of this work will be linked to education and conservation by the development of a field course that will partner undergraduate students with Solomon Island biologists, and the implementation of outreach programs aimed at conserving the endangered habitats of the Solomon Islands. The research program will provide a unique understanding of the factors that shape biodiversity in nature, which will be used as a platform for conservation outreach and to train Solomon Island biologists and undergraduate students, especially those from groups underrepresented in the biological sciences.
Uy’s general area of research focuses on behavioral ecology; sexual selection; animal communication and signal evolution; and evolution of premating isolation. His “Uy Lab,” funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society, examines the causes and consequences of adaptive mate choice and signal evolution. Uy and his students research how new species evolve and how changes in the ways animals communicate can result in the formation of new species — if traits that animals use in recognizing individuals of the same species change, then they will no longer recognize each other as the same species; hence, new species are formed.
Uy received a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park and conducted his post-doctoral research at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 2000-02. Before joining SU’s Department of Biology in 2004, Uy was an assistant professor at San Francisco State University.