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Birdy Hour with Trina Chou

Lend an Ear - Using Neuroscience to Study Hearing in Songbirds

Songbirds communicate with one another for many reasons – to find and attract a mate, to defend their territory, or even to band together to ward off a predator. However, human-generated noise, also known as anthropogenic noise, and encroachment into bird habitats continues to rise year after year. Birds are thus faced with the ever-increasing challenge of still communicating with one another amidst these changes. Behavioral evidence shows that birds react differently to stimuli depending on external noise levels, often to their detriment. Unfortunately, we cannot directly ask a bird what it can and cannot hear! Instead, we can use neuroscience and electrophysiological techniques to better understand the capabilities of their auditory nerve, which leads to greater understanding of how different species may be affected by noise. The naturally occurring mixed-species flocks of black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, and white-breasted nuthatches offer the perfect means to understand how anti-predator behaviors are affected by noise, and how this may be explained by their auditory physiology. Join us to hear Trina Chou discuss findings from studies of these species conducted in Upstate New York during her undergraduate thesis research project!

Trina Chou is currently a first-year Ph.D. student in the Ecology of Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she is studying frog acoustic communication with Dr. Jessie Tanner. She originally hails from Sunnyvale, and although her mom Elaine has been a long time SFBBO volunteer, Trina’s interest in birds did not start until she went to college. Trina graduated from Vassar College in 2023 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavior, where she worked in Dr. Megan Gall’s lab for three years studying anti-predator behaviors and communication between black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, and white-breasted nuthatches. While at Dr. Gall’s lab, Trina used both behavioral and neuroscience techniques to ask questions about how these songbirds communicate in rising levels of anthropogenic noise. She is thrilled to be part of the SFBBO’s Birdy Hour talks.

Please register - the Zoom link will be sent in the confirmation. If you have any questions, please contact Kristin Butler at [email protected]

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