Liz Derryberry, Principal Investigator and Associate Professor

Liz’s CV

I graduated in 2000 from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at Princeton University, where I completed a senior thesis on the fitness consequences of parasites in natural populations of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys). I went on to do my doctoral dissertation work on the patterns and mechanisms of song evolution in white-crowned sparrows in the Nowicki lab at Duke University. In 2007, I joined the Museum of Natural Science at Louisiana State University to study lineage diversification in Neotropical ovenbirds and woodcreepers (Aves: Furnariidae). In 2012 joined the Tulane EEBIO faculty. In 2017, I joined the EEB faculty at the University of Knoxville, TN.  Currently, I am working on several collaborative projects that address the proximate and ultimate factors controlling variation in communication signals using a range of techniques drawn from several disciplines.


Amy Luo, PhD Student (2019-Current)

Amy is interested in the factors that drive the formation and distribution of bird song dialects.

Amy received her Bachelor of Science degree in Evolution and Ecology in from Ohio State University. There, she studied fungus-growing ants in Rachelle Adams’ lab before joining the Derryberry lab in 2019.

Ruth Simberloff, Master’s Student (2020-Current)

Ruth is a second-year Master’s student, interested in the evolution of animal communication. She is currently studying how a shifting urban soundscape during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the songs of white-crowned sparrows in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ruth received her BSc from McGill University in 2018. As an undergraduate she was a student researcher in the behavioral neuroethology lab of Sarah Woolley. After graduation she worked as a researcher at the field station of the Guassa Gelada Research Project in the Ethiopian highlands and as the lab manager of Stephanie Kivlin’s soil microbiology lab at UTK before joining the Derryberry lab in 2020.

Tara Empson, PhD Student (2021-Current)

Tara is interested in social signal perception. Tara received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behavior from Indiana University. There, she studied mechanisms of female aggression in Kimberly Rosvall’s lab before joining the Derryberry lab in 2021.

Her honors and awards include: Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research

Renata Beco, PhD Student (2022-Current)

Renata is interested in the evolution of avian communication and how it is shaped by behavior and environmental conditions.

Renata is originally from Brazil, where she received her Master’s degree in Zoology from the University of São Paulo. During her Master’s, she studied the evolution of acoustic and visual signals in a diverse clade of Neotropical passerine bird species, commonly known as antwrens. After graduation, she worked as a field assistant on several ornithological expeditions in the Atlantic Forest of São Paulo, Brazil and as a research assistant in the Laboratory of Ornithology at the State University of Maranhão before joining the Derryberry lab in 2022.

Pronouns: she/her


Mae Berlow, PhD Candidate (2014-2021)


Mae is interested in avian gut microbial diversity and effects of shifts in gut microbial community on avian behavior.

Mae received her Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Biology at Warren Wilson College, where she worked on the effects of stream contaminants on fish morphology and growth. She then worked as a joint research assistant for the Derryberry and Van Bael labs before joining the Derryberry lab in 2015 to start her Ph.D.

Her honors and awards include: Tulane EEB graduate student research award.

Casey Coomes, PhD Candidate (2014-2021)


Casey’s website

Casey is interested in behavioral ecology, specifically the effects of heat stress on avian communication. Her current research focuses on the effects of thermal stress on zebra finches.

Casey received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Transylvania University. There, she worked with Becky Fox studying parental behavior in house sparrows, before joining the lab in 2015.

Her honors and awards include: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, SICB Grant in Aid of Research, NSF GRFP Honorable Mention, Tulane EEB graduate student research award, Tulane Processes of Science in EEB award.

Clara Howell (2014 – 2019)

Clara Howell

Clara’s website

Clara is interested in the evolution of cognitive ability. Her research includes the role of problem-solving ability in sexual selection, and the genomic response to heat stress compared to other types of stressors in zebra finches.

Clara was an undergraduate in the Derryberry Lab at Tulane University, and moved with the lab to the University of Tennessee to begin her graduate work.

Sara Lipshutz (2012 – 2018), Postdoctoral Researcher with Kim Rosvall at Indiana University

Sara’s website.

Sara examines the role that sexual selection plays in shaping mating signals and behaviors, and in turn how this can drive the speciation process. She works on female competition and hybridization between Northern and Wattled Jacanas in Panama and song as a behavior barrier between subspecies of White-crowned Sparrows in California.

sara jacana mounts

Sara received her BA in biology from Swarthmore College, where she studied social olfaction in Crested Auklets with Dr. Julie Hagelin and estimated demography of Kittlitz’s Plover with Dr. Magda Remisiewicz at the University of Cape Town. She began studying the jacana hybrid zone with Dr. Matthew Miller at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama.

Her honors and awards include: NSF GRF, NSF GROW Fellowship in Switzerland, NSF DDIG, National Geographic Young Explorer Grant, Ernst Mayr short term research fellowship (STRI)

Jenny Phillips (2013 – 2017), Faculty, Texas A&M San Antonio

Jenny with sparrow

Jenny’s website.


Mike Harvey, Assistant Professor, University of Texas, El Paso website:

Dana Moseley, Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center website:

Ray Danner, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina Wilmington website:

Julie Danner, Scientist and Mom

Renata Durães Ribeiro, Professor of the Practice, Tulane University website:

Andrés Cuervo, Curator of Birds and Professor, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia