Welcome to Josh LaPergola's home page!

Current Position: Ph.D. Candidate

Department of Neurobiology and Behavior

W343 Seeley G. Mudd Hall,

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853


Bird Population Studies Program & The Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850

office phone (Mudd Hall): (607) 254-4370

e-mail: jbl96 at cornell.edu, jlapblca at gmail.com

Welcome to my web site! I'm a doctoral candidate in Cornell's Department of Neurobiology and Behavior where I am co-advised by Walter Koenig and Mike Webster. My dissertation research concerns the ecology and evolution of cooperation and conflict in animal societies. I am currently undertaking a field study of the Hispaniolan Woodpecker (Melanerpes striatus; pictured below) in the Dominican Republic. The species often breeds colonially, with nests tightly clumped together. The extent of sociality varies within populations: nests sometimes occur singly but more commonly one can find colonies of two or more nests in the same tree or adjacent trees. The record for largest colony so far goes to a clump of apparently 26 active breeding pairs in one tree (observed by Lester Short in the 1970's). Behavioral observations suggest infrequent occurrence of cooperative breeding (≥3 birds attending a nest), adding a potential extra layer of complexity to this social breeding system. My fieldwork involves attempting to better understand the intricacies of the woodpecker's social breeding system and social and genetic mating systems with the hopes of understanding what environmental pressures influence this observed variation. I am also interested in determining the consequences of cooperative group-living for the operation of sexual selection.

For my master's research at Villanova University with Bob Curry, I undertook the first intensive study of the social system and genetic mating system of the Yucatán Peninsula endemic Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) at two sites in Quintana Roo, Mexico. In particular, I collected data on various aspects of the catbird's natural history, providing the first detailed characterization of its parental care system. I simultaneously utilized a natural experiment (mainland-island comparison) to assess the effects of breeding density on the catbird's genetic mating system.

In the course of my master's work, I also made opportunistic observations of endemic breeding birds in Mexico and also on Saint Lucia (British West Indies), helping to fill holes in the natural history of these poorly known species. Neotropical bird species are generally less well-studied than their northern temperate zone counterparts. Published examples include the first definitive description of the nest and eggs of the Gray Trembler (Cinclocerthia gutturalis) on St. Lucia, and the first descriptions of the nest, eggs, and breeding phenology of Cozumel Vireo (Vireo bairdi). I am currently preparing other observations for publication, including contributions to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Neotropical Birds Online initiative.

Prior to my master's research, I worked on various types of research projects as an undergraduate at Rowan University, including: phylogenetics and dental anatomy of fossil perissodactyls (with Luke Holbrook); behavioral and population responses of fiddler crabs to an invasive grass species in the salt marshes of southern New Jersey (with Mike Grove); and navigation behavior of homing pigeons (with Gerald Hough).

As you can see, the site is currently under construction. I hope to add much more to it in the near future. In the meantime, take a gander at my publications and stay posted for future web site development!