Interdisciplinary Life Science - PULSe Great research is a matter of choice

Jeffrey R. Lucas

Jeffrey R.  Lucas Profile Picture

Professor-Department of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., Florida, 1983

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Integrative Neuroscience

Current Research Interests:

My lab hopes to understand the degree to which complex signals convey "information" among birds. Studies of bird communication, in turn, provide an excellent model for understanding our own language. We have focused most of our work on Carolina chickadees birds that have one of the most complex vocal systems of any species outside of humans. Indeed, chickadees are one of the few animals known to use syntax in their vocal signals. Expanding this work to include an analysis of the hearing capacity of chickadees and other bird species, we are the first lab to show that a bird's ability to process sounds of different frequencies varies across seasons. This finding suggests that the neurophysiology of the auditory system in birds changes over the course of the year. Ultimately, the work could well give us some insight into the dynamics of our own auditory capacities.

Seasonal aspects of energy regulation in caching animals is another focus of our lab. We know that birds store more food in fall than at other times of the year, but we know little about the physiological basis of this seasonal trend. Attempting to understand the reason for this pattern, we are monitoring a suite of traits, from hormones, to brain-cell replacement rates, to overall behavior rates. Surprisingly, bird responses to impending winter conditions are remarkably similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a significant syndrome in humans.

Selected Publications:

Freeberg, T.M., JR. Lucas & B Clucas. 2003. Variation in chick-a-dee calls of a population of Carolina chickadees, Poecile carolinensis: identity and redundancy within note types. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 113:2127-2136

Clucas, BA, TM Freeberg & JR Lucas.2004. Chick-a-dee call syntax, social context, and season affect vocal responses of Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis). Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 57:187-196

Lucas, JR, A Brodin, SR de Kort & NS Clayton. 2004. Does Hippocampal Size Correlate with the Degree of Caching Specialization? Proceedings of the Royal Society B 271:2423-2429

Lucas JR, TM Freeberg, J Egbert & H Schwabl. 2006. Corticosterone, body mass, and caching rates of Carolina chickadees from disturbed and undisturbed sites. Hormones & Behavior

Lucas JR, TM Freeberg, GR Long, & A Krishnan. 2007. Seasonal variation in avian auditory evoked responses to tones: a comparative analysis of Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, and white-breasted nuthatches. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 193:201-215

Lucas, JR & TM Freeberg. 2007. Information and the chick-a-dee call: communicating with a complex vocal system. In KA Otter (ed), Ecology and Behaviour of Chickadees and Titmice: an integrated approach. Oxford Univ. Press, pp 199-213.

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