Drs. Andrew King and Meredith West direct the
ANIMAL BEHAVIOR FARM . We aim to discover and implement new ways of studying
behaving. We offer resources that apply the precision of laboratory science
to new behaviors and new contexts that are more like field settings. A
special interest is in the development of avian vocal communication and
social competence. We and our students have taken many approaches to looking
at social experience ranging from work with birds who live and interact with
humans in their homes to investigations in large aviaries of how social
affiliations among younger and older generations of birds leads to social
and evolutionary change. Contrary to the image summoned by the term
"birdbrain", many avian species rely extensively on social learning to
transmit culture. Our laboratory was the first to discover that female
cowbirds, who do not sing, can still "teach" males how to sing by using
visual gestures to motivate and manipulate the male cowbird's vocal
practice. Our job is thus to discover the multiple means by which animals
guide one another's ability to learn and by doing so shape developmental
outcomes and ultimately evolutionary change.
Our students call
our lab the "Farm"--we are not sure who started the practice but we like it.
In the Midwest, most farmers grow corn, wheat, and beans--we grow behavior.
As cultivators of behavior, we recognize that attention to an animal's
social needs is as essential as a farmer's attention to good soil.
Farmers begin to see the effects of poor soil quite quickly as yields
decline. Social malnourishment is harder to recognize and easier to ignore.
Our aim at the Animal Behavior Farm to create circumstances allowing us to
see animals at their best--to create contexts as conducive as possible to
revealing hidden or non obvious capacities. To achieve this goal, we leave
the typical laboratory cage behind and fashion semi-naturalistic
environments, environments balancing our need to see an animal with the
animal's need for space and security. Such settings reveal behaviors hard to
see in the wild. By employing state-of-the art video and audio
technology to document and preserve the actions of the animals, we offer a
new kind of classroom for educating others and ourselves.
Vocal communication, prelinguistic
communication, bird song, development, courtship behavior, birds,
comparative psychology, ethology, behavioral ecology, animal behavior,
animal cognition, animal intelligence, social development, social learning,
social competence, social dynamics, cultural transmission, mate choice,
sexual selection, evolution.
The material presented at this
website is based upon work supported by the National Science
Foundation under Grant No. 0234047 and NIMH
Grant No. R21MH096697.
Any opinions, findings, and
conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those
of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
National Science Foundation or NIMH..
The Animal Behavior Farm has
been supported for the last 25 years by Indiana
University, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and private