Female ornamentation and reproductive competition: a compendium of possible mechanisms

Organizer: Courtney L Fitzpatrick

Early naturalists observed conspicuous and exaggerated traits in male animals across taxa and recognized that—because these traits were unlikely to enhance survival—they required specific explanation in order to be reconciled with the theory of natural selection. Since that time, the research on sexual selection has produced a great and detailed body of knowledge about the processes of reproductive competition in males and how those processes give rise to observed patterns of diversity (from molecular to organismal) in the natural world. In recent decades, examples have accumulated of traits that appear to be secondary sexual characters in female animals across taxa (e.g. insects, crustaceans, birds, lizards, mammals). These traits tend to have salience in the context of mating or courtship but often are observed in species where females are not mate-limited; therefore, they are not explained simply by the mirror-image process of sexual selection in males. Instead, they are increasingly recognized as indications that other types of selection at work in the lives of female animals, forces fundamental to the biology of females that remain poorly understood. This symposium highlights current research focused on female ornamentation and reproductive competition in females when they are not mate-limited, showcasing a compendium of possible mechanisms.

Increasing the visibility of LGBTQ+ scientists and building a queer-friendly community in the Animal Behavior Society

Organizer: Kasey Fowler-Finn

Visibility of LGBTQ+ scientists is critical to empower LGBTQ+ people in STEM to succeed in a safe and supportive environment that recognizes both unique challenges and scientific contributions. Queer scientists face higher rates of exclusion, harassment, and assault in comparison to non-LGBTQ+ colleagues, and are not equally protected by the law. Thus, it is no wonder that LGBTQ+ scientists drop out at higher rates. Diverse and inclusive communities are critical for LGBTQ+ folks but we cannot find that community unless it is visible; while openly queer scientists are often difficult to identify, they can provide vast benefits. The goals of this symposium are to increase LGBTQ+ visibility in our Society by showcasing their work and celebrating the diversity of perspectives and unique contributions they bring to the field of Animal Behavior. This symposium includes talks by queer animal behaviorists across a range of career stages and fields with diverse gender, sexual, and intersectional identities in order to cover a range of important contributions and unique challenges of the LGBTQ+ community. The multi-day symposium provides a safe space throughout the meeting. Furthermore, the concluding panel discussion allows for allies to educate themselves on the diversity of challenges faced by LGBTQ+ scientists, and for different LGBTQ+ groups to better understand the unique challenges and contributions of queer scientists with different identities. An accompanying LGBTQ+ social will provide networking opportunities for our membership.

Understanding the emergent properties of animal groups using multilayer networks

Organizer: Sandra E. Smith Aguilar

Tools from social network analysis have been widely integrated to the study of animal social behavior. By modeling social groups as sets of nodes (individuals) connected by representations of interactions or relationships (social or genetic) among them, we have gained insight about many aspects of social life such as how groups are structured and how this structure influences processes like information flow or contagion. New methods allow increasingly complex representations of social groups, such as multilayer networks which can better capture the multidimensionality of social structure. Different interaction types are represented as interconnected layers, which altogether can capture structural features likely lost when compressed into monolayer or other representations. Preserving this structural richness may be relevant to understand, for instance, processes governing group cohesion and resilience. Consequently, multilayer networks are an inviting avenue to investigate the properties that emerge from interaction patterns across different behavioral contexts, how these feed back to the individuals and their sociospatial decisions and how environmental variables influence this multilayer social structure.
This symposium aims to bring together researchers studying social behavior in animal groups using multilayer networks, to discuss both advances in our understanding of the properties of social structures, their interplay with the environment and their influence on individual behavior and fitness, as well as the methodological strategies used in our research.

Exploring intersections of behavior and welfare in free-ranging wild animals

Organizer: Janire Castellano Bueno

Animal behavior researchers are increasingly aware of the value and pivotal significance of considering animal welfare. Incorporating animal welfare not only leads to a better understanding of behavior but also significantly improves the quality of the science itself.

To embrace these benefits effectively, it is essential to know how to appropriately incorporate welfare into behavioral studies, and how best to design high-quality studies that use behavior to assess welfare. 

This symposium aims to support the community of animal behavior scientists by providing tangible examples of how they can integrate welfare into their research and enhance their science in the process.  By featuring 10 speakers who will provide concrete case studies, the symposium will help illustrate the synergies between wild animal welfare and applied behavior. Each speaker will explore important questions with distinct wild animal species, thus offering a diverse array of insights.

The primary objective is clear: to furnish the behavioral research community with tangible and applicable tools for integrating welfare into their research. Since the field of animal behavior is increasingly recognizing the importance of understanding welfare, this symposium offers a valuable and timely contribution by providing highly relevant practical examples for researchers to follow. The symposium thus serves to guide researchers to effectively intertwine welfare considerations into the fabric of behavioral studies. Attendees can anticipate an informative discussion and real-world examples that can empower them to navigate the transformative intersection of these fields with precision and clarity.

The Golden Age of Animal Communication Networks

Organizer: David Logue

Animal communication emerges from complex interactions among individuals and the environment.  Often, the communicating animals comprise a network of signal senders and receivers. A male frog invites a female to mate, but his calls attract a swarm of blood sucking midges. How do hostile receivers shape the evolution of communication in a network? A bird sings a song at dawn. His neighbour matches his melody, two others quickly match him, and the song type ramifies through the forest. If we could see information flow through the landscape, what intricate patterns would emerge? The returning forager ant approaches her sisters one by one with an offer of regurgitated food; only once she has emptied her crop can she set off again. How does communication shape resource management in complex societies?  We need to understand communication networks both because they are common in nature, and because fascinating communication phenomena like eavesdropping and information diffusion can only occur in networks. Historically, the scale and complexity of communication networks have impeded scientific progress, but that is beginning to change. Technological advances have stimulated the development of new tools to record, analyze, and manipulate communication networks. The field has advanced rapidly as a result. We propose to nurture this positive trend with a symposium devoted to cutting edge research on animal communication networks.

The Charles H. Turner Symposium

Organizer: Jennifer Hamel

Charles H. Turner (1867 - 1923) was a trailblazer in comparative animal behavior and entomology. He designed experiments to test insect navigation and communication, and made many fundamental discoveries, including that insect behavior is shaped by previous experience, that insects can distinguish pitch, and that bees have color vision. He was one of the first African-American researchers in animal behavior, and he advocated for civil rights, education, and social reform. In 2002, ABS members obtained NSF funding for the Charles H. Turner Program, to engage undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups in mentored, cohorted experiences at the ABS annual conference. Cohorts of 10-12 students have been introduced to the Animal Behavior Society through the Turner Program each year since 2002, and ABS has provided financial support for the program since 2010. The Turner Program has impacted over 250 individual students, as well as the society members who act as mentors and coordinators each year. Many students and former students who participated in this program are active in research and continue to be ABS members. The goals of this symposium are to recognize some of the many researchers who have participated in this program, deepen connections between current and former Turners and ABS, and provide networking opportunities for scientists from identities underrepresented in STEM.

Past-President Symposium: The Legacy of Undergraduate Programs in Animal Behavior

Organizers: Sue Margulis, Jen Snekser, Malini Suchak

The first undergraduate major focused specifically on animal behavior was established at Bucknell University in 1968 and since then, several other universities have developed animal behavior programs, including those highlighted in this symposium. These programs are intentionally focused on animals and behavioral sciences and also incorporate fields such as ecology, environmental science, education, anthrozoology, conservation, evolution, neuroscience, and psychology. The interdisciplinary approaches within these programs provide graduates with several different animal-related career paths and provide future animal researchers with unique perspectives on the ultimate and proximate causes of behavior. This year, the Presidential Symposium, led by researchers from Canisius University, will highlight the work of graduates of these animal behavior-focused undergraduate programs. These researchers will also reflect on how their early foundation in animal behavior shaped their paths to success.

Allee Symposium for Best Student Paper

Organizer: Beth Jakob, ABS Second President-Elect

This symposium features outstanding graduate student research, with an award for the best paper, and is a highlight of ABS meetings. The session honors Dr. Warder Clyde Allee (1885–1955), an animal behavior researcher who was very influential in the development and direction of animal behavior research in the 20th century. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1951 and ranks among the leading twentieth century ecologists, especially for his work in behavioral and animal ecology. In the 2024 ABS Allee Session, students will present their research to ABS members and talk judges.