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Animal Behavior Society
Animal Behavior Society

Working towards a better understanding of animal behavior

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Graduate positions (M.S.) on animal communication, parasitism, congition available at Murray State University (KY)
Grad Positions
Posted Mar 17
The Beckers and Sullivan-Beckers labs are accepting Master’s students to start in their labs at Murray State University in the fall of 2021. 

Both labs seek driven, enthusiastic, and focused students to start in the fall 2021. Applications will be accepted until positions are filled. Successful applicants have a B.S. in biology, ecology, or related discipline. For your application, make sure to briefly address in an attached document (1) your research interests, (2) how they relate to the research in the Beckers’ lab/Sullivan-Beckers’ lab, and your (3) GPA. Once you indicated interest in either position, an online meeting will be set up shortly after. Additional financial support through a training grant is available (deadline April 1).
The Beckers lab studies katydids and crickets to address questions related to the evolution of animal communication. One main area of research focusses on the effects of the environment (i.e., phenotypic plasticity) on mating songs and song preferences in both crickets and katydids. In our two main study species, Neoconocephalus triops and Gryllus rubens, day length or temperature induce two substantially different mating songs. We study the ramifications of this plasticity on the evolution of the communication system in both animals. 
            A second area of research focusses on the parasitoid/host interactions between an eavesdropping fly and its multiple katydid hosts. The fly uses the mating songs of the katydids to find the hosts and deposit its lethal larvae. Since the songs attract the flies, natural and sexual selection act in opposing directions on songs and singing behavior, setting up an exciting arms race between the species. This is a new system that we have started to explore over the past two years, offering many interesting research opportunities.
If you are interested in our lab, and/or have any questions, please email Dr. Beckers at
For more information on this lab, please visit the lab page:
The Sullivan-Beckers lab investigates the evolution of vibrational courtship signals and mating displays, as well as cognitive traits (e.g., memory, learning) used in reproduction. The lab works both with wolf spiders and treehoppers. The wolf spider work aims to understand the selective pressures that shape male courtship behavior and female mating decisions. One of these selective pressures under investigation is female aggression, which can lead to pre-sexual cannibalism. In the Schizocosa wolf spider genus, female aggression varies among species. To determine whether aggression influences the evolution of male behavior, we are comparing male responses to female aggression in multiple species that occur in our area. The abiotic environment may also play a role in shaping male courtship displays and we do experiments manipulating the environment to quantify changes in male displays. We are also interested in the role that social experience plays in mating decisions of females.
           Another animal that uses vibrational signals in courtship is the treehopper. We recently discovered a new treehopper species and are establishing a lab population to learn as much as we can about the communication and reproductive system in this novel species.

If you are interested in our lab, and/or have any questions, please email Dr. Laura Sullivan-Beckers at
For more information on this lab, please visit the lab page: