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Wildlife Ecology and Conservation department

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation department


The Sieving Lab: Avian Ecology and Conservation Behavior

sieving  Kathryn E. Sieving (Katie)
  Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation
  University of Florida, Gainesville

  B.Sc. Wildlife, Fish, & Conservation Biology, University of California Davis
  Ph.D. Ecology, Ethology, & Evolution, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

For my publications, please see Google Scholar

Conceptually rooted in behavioral, community, landscape and evolutionary ecology,  my lab focuses on avian ecology and behavior with a central focus on the behavioral mechanisms underlying human-bird-envieronment interactions. Recent research in my lab addresses:

  • Conceptual frameworks and applications of mixed species flocking
  • Avian acoustic and communication ecology; especially of family Paridae
  • Noise, predation risk, and habitat loss effects on avian behavioral, population and community ecology

I am enthusiastic about graduate training! Grad students are the lifeblood of scientific advancement and academic communities of learning. My lab philosophy is ‘effective conservation science is via rigorous research design’.  Ecosystems are complex and conservation is emotionally and economically pressing for stakeholders and the public. Therefore, conservation scientists must work and learn efficiently while maintaining scientific standards at the highest level. I teach a foundational graduate course in scientific logic and conceptual framing (ecological science), research organization, and competitive proposal writing (WIS 5496 Research Design in Widlife Ecology and Conservation).  My gradaute students' interests take the lab in their directions. My philosophy of mentoring - ‘it’s your degree and future - take the reins!’

Sieving Lab - Anchor Research Topics

Animal Information Landscapes

Animal Information Landscapes

When the titmouse speaks, everybody listens!   

We’ve discovered that the Eastern Tufted Titmouse encodes a high diversity of reliable and distinctive information about predation threats they perceive in their alarm calls and other vocalizations (including their chip calls).  Many other species not only know the titmouse code, they change their behaviors in accordance with the degree of threat conveyed in those calls.  We are exploring many aspects of parid ‘info-scapes’.  See Publications list. This work has been funded by National Science Foundation; University of Florida; Animal Behavior Society; others. 



Vocal Complexity in Family Paridae

Vocal Complexity in Family Paridae

Causes and consequences of the extraordinary vocal complexity of chickadees and titmice.

With Todd Freeberg (UT-Knoxville) and Jeff Lucas (Purdue) we tested three major hypotheses for the causes (social, habitat, and predation risk complexity) of parid vocal complexity. While all three factors clearly influence avian communication, in Paridae, the social context is key.  A central finding of our work is that the composition of mixed species audiences is highly influential regarding when and how vigorously chickadees and titmice vocalize and comunicate. In aggression, territorial defense, mixed species flock interactions, and mobbing; the identities of nearby species affect callers' vocal output.  Heterospecific audience effects are increasingly recognized as important determininants of all aspects of avian communication. Work funded by NSF.

Behavioral Landscape Ecology of Forest Animals 

Behavioral Landscape Ecology of Forest AnimalsPrinciples of Behavioral Landscape Ecology...

... are fundamental to understanding the distribution and viability of wildlife populations.  Behavioral mechanisms help determine spatial distributions of animals and their responses to landscape change (short and long term) and disturbance.  We use behavioral ecology to understand animal movements, activities, and distribution in disturbed landscapes. We have found that landscape connectivity is defined by a species’ behavioral perceptions of risks and rewards in spatial decision-making, and is greatly influenced by spatial configuration of habitat and also what other species are doing nearby at local and landscape scales.  See Publications.  Figure is from Cornelius et al. 2017.  This work has been funded by NGS; NSF; USP; Disney; UF; Animal Behavior Soc; Conservation Leadership Program; US Fish & Wildlife Service; others.



The Sieving Lab Today

  • Po-An Chen, Ph.D. SNRE.  Flock behavior in realtion to parid Parid-based informationscapes.
  • Nicholas Martin, PhD. UF Entomology. Research collaborator - wren recognition of plant-based aposematism.
  • Sean Manz, MSc. WEC. Non-lethal avian deterrents (lasers). Funded by USDA/UF.
  • Odile Maurelli, MSc. WEC. Female incubation behavior in repsonse to noise.
  • Sylvia Van Boskirk, BSc/MSc (combined degree). Heterospecific audience effects on parid alarm call production.
  • Hannah Cain, BSc. Bluebird nesting behavior under risk-disturbance.
  • Hannah Henry, BSc. Heterospecifc versus conspecific audience effects on parid alarm calls.
  • Pedro Lopez, BSc. Trends in Prairie Creek Banding Lab data (Audubon Intern).

Study Species of the Sieving lab

Image result for eastern bluebird gilbertson nest box Image result for blue-headed vireo Image result for downy woodpecker Image result for tufted titmouse Image result for carolina chickadee face Image result for blue headed vireo

For Prospective Graduate Students & Post Docs: 

To be considered for a position in my lab, please send …

  • A clear, brief email of career goals and research interests that relate to lab interests.
  • A current curriculum vita indicating relevant coursework, GPA, experience, publications, and GRE scores.
  • Please read over websites pertaining to the graduate programs in WEC and SNRE at UF, and indicate which one is best for you.
  • Please explore the following links and address funding issues in your inquiry.

University of Florida - $  /  NSF Graduate Fellowships GRFP - $  /  Fulbright Scholar Program - $

McKnight Fellowships - $  /  Wildlife Conservation Society - $  /  ProFellow - $

Courses Developed & Taught

Current courses

  • WIS 4934 Wildlife Behavior and Conservation - Fall
  • WIS 5496 Research Design in Wildlife Ecology & Conservation - Fall
  • WIS 4547c  Avian Field Research – Spring

Past courses

  • WIS 4/6934 Ancient Bird Language for Modern Naturalists (field course in animal behavior)
  • WIS 6934 Networking Women in Sustainability Science (online course)
  • WIS 3403c  Perspectives in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
  • WIS 4934-Honors / Becoming Ecological Natives in the Anthropocene
  • Research Design in Conservation Biology – 1 week short course, Co-taught with Lyn Branch in Acre, Brazil; with Nilmini Jayasena and Fangyuan Hua in Kandy, Sri Lanka
  • Design of Social-Ecological Research Studies – 1 week short course Co-taught w/ Mickie Swisher (UF) in Argentina; and for OTS in Costa Rica.
  • Natural Resource Conservation; Wildlife Ecology and Management; Ornithology; Conservation Biology
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Global Perspectives; Field Ecology; Attaining a Sustainable Society; Resilience in Living Systems

Sieving Lab Alums (& current activities).   


  • Dr. Leila Kalantari, Post Doc (2018-20). Machine learning algorithms applied to acoustic data retrieval (UF Informatics Fellow).
  • Dr. Rajeev Pillay, Post Doc (Summer 2016). Regional variation in vocal complexity in Paridae (NSF).
  • Dr. Dara Wald, Post Doc (Spring 2013). Taught “Networking Women in Sustainability” (NSF).  Asst. Professor, Iowa State U.
  • Dr. Thomas A. Contreras, Post Doc (2002-2006).  Ecology of winter flocks (USDA, NSF). Professor, Wash-Jefferson U.   
  • Dr. Kevina Vulinec, Post Doc (2000-2002).  Fire ecology and restoration (USDA). Professor, Delaware State University. 
  • Dr. Joan Morrison, Post Doc (1999).  Ecology of nest predators (Ford Foundation.) Professor (retired) Trinity College. 


  • Dr. Demeng Jiang, PhD. Visiting Scholar (Guangxi U, Nanning, China; 2019-20). Seasonal variation in social information. Now post doc at Peking University.
  • Dr. Kristen Malone, PhD. 2019. Effects of large-scale hardwood reduction on bobwhite and Bachmann's sparrow populations. Post doc at Mizzou.
  • Dr. Rosalyn Johnson, Ph.D. 2016. Native bee communities and pollen foraging in organic farm-scapes. CEO,
  • Dr. Willandia Chaves-Didier, Ph.D. 2016. Wildlife trade, hunting, and game consumption in the Amazon. Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech University.
  • Dr. Andrea Larissa Boesing, PhD. Visiting Scholar (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; 2015-16). Landscape ecology of functional insectiviory in agroecosystems.
  • Dr. Jackson Frechette, Ph.D. 2014. Apes, seed dispersal, tropical tree regeneration. Flora and Fauna International, Cambodia.
  • Dr. Sangham Rana, PhD. Visiting Scholar (Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan; 2014). 
  • Dr. Fangyuan Hua, Ph.D. 2013. Forest degradation and bird conservation.  Post-docs: (1) Princeton, (2) Cambridge.  Faculty at Peking University, Center for Ecology.
  • Dr. Eduardo Silva, Ph.D. 2012.  Chilean wildlife conflicts w/ domestic carnivores. Faculty Universidad Austral, Valdivia, Chile.
  • Dr. Iván A. Díaz, Ph.D. 2008. Epiphyte–bird interactions in Chilean rainforest. Faculty Universidad Austral, Valdivia Chile.
  • Dr. Matthew J. Reetz, Ph.D.  2008.  Invasion of brown-headed cowbirds in Florida. ED for Madison WI Audubon Society.
  • Dr. Traci D. Castellón, Ph.D.  2005.  Avian landscape ecology and sustainable patch networks. Biologist, FFWCC.
  • Dr. John J. Kappes, Ph.D.  2004.  Heterospecific use of red-cockaded woodpecker cavities.  Independent consultant.
  • Dr. Gregory A. Jones, Ph.D.  2003.  Integrating bird conservation and farming. Faculty Santa Fe College, Gainesville, Florida. 


  • Yue Liu, MSc. 2020. Effect of construction noise on Eastern Bluebird reproductive biology.
  • Pete Monte, MSc. 2020. Parid leadership in predator mobbing dynamics.
  • Jin Bai, MSc. 2019. Factors affecting avian aggression across the urban-wildland interface.
  • Sarah Obaid, MSc. 2018. Avian acoustics in different habitats.
  • Mary Mack Gray. MSc. 2019. Personality variation in brown-headed nuthatch populations.
  • Bobbi Carpenter, MSc. 2019. Predicting nesting stage in wild turkey hens using spatial signature.
  • Harrison Jones, M.Sc. 2016. Traits and factors predicting reliance on socially derived anti-predator information in winter flocking species. Starting UF PhD Biology Fall 2016.
  • Aaron Grade, MSc. 2015. Soundscape ecology: avian information restriction caused by road noise. Starting a PhD in Fall 2015 at U Mass, Amherst.
  • Kaan Kerman, MSc. 2015. Behavioral syndromes in an invasive species, Monk parakeet. Starting a PhD in Fall 2015 at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.
  • Barbara Arakaki, MSc. Visiting Scholar (Univ Brasilia, Brazil; 2014). Tropical forest bird community structure.
  • Amanda Abel, MSc. 2014. Florida scrub jay landscape ecology; patch occupancy and barriers to movement in Ocala Nat’l Forest. GIS Analyst, Quest Ecology, FL.
  • Elizabeth White, MSc. 2014. Florida scrub jay anti-predator behavior.  Currently PhD student in SNRE/WEC.
  • Ping Huang, M.Sc. 2010. Effects of social information on bird exploratory behavior. Doctoral student in Biology, U Florida, with Collette St. Mary.
  • Willandia Chaves-Didier, M.Sc. 2009. Wildlife and logging in Acre, Brasil. 
  • John J. DeLuca, M.Sc. 2008. Are farms ecological traps for Eastern Bluebirds?  USDA Forest Service.
  • Stacia A. Hetrick, M.Sc. 2006. Vocal signaling of risk by tufted titmice.  With FFWCC; private consulting.
  • Michael P. Milleson, M.Sc.  2005.  Modeling mechanisms of arrested succession in south-temperate rainforest. Wildlife Disease Biologist at Florida Field Station -- Wildlife Research (USDA), Gainesville, FL. (Lab page).
  • Leonard Santisteban, M.Sc.  2001.  Use of sensory cues by selected avian and mammalian nest predators. PhD, New Mexico State University, 2009.
  • Matthew Reetz, M.Sc.  2000.  The effects of predator identity and capability on nest defense by songbirds. (See above).
  • Heather McPherson, M.Sc.  1999.   Distributional constraints of the ochre-flanked tapaculo, Eugralla paradoxa. Biologist, Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
  • Diana Swan, M.Sc. 1999.  Nesting ecology of three woodpecker species in north Florida longleaf pine forest. Biologist, Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
  • Brian D. C. Williams. M.Sc. 1998.  Distribution, habitat associations, and conservation of CA purple martins. Consultant: Williams Wildland Consulting, and adjunct Faculty with Sierra College, California.
  • Gerard J. McChesney.  M.Sc. 1997. Breeding biology of the Brandt’s cormorant on San Nicolas Island, CA.  Seabird biologist with USFWS in California.


  • Kuangying Chen, BSc. Research volunteer.
  • Brian Stokes, BSc. Research volunteer. Acoustics analysis.
  • Gabriel Gonzalez, BSc. Research volunteer, Prairie Creek Banding assistant.
  • Isabella Plummer, BSc. Research volunteer. Nest site selection by urban Eastern bluebirds.
  • Camya Robinson, BSc. Research volunteer.
  • Zach Holmes, BSc. G.R.E.B.E. president and research volunteer.Izzy Garcia, BSc. G.R.E.B.E. officer and research volunteer.
  • Jennifer Franklin, BSc. Research volunteer.
  • Odile Maurelli, BSc. Grad Cornell U, Research volunteer.
  • Jonathan Argov, BSc. Research Technician. Avian acoustics.
  • Brittany Panos, BSc. Bioacoustics volunteer.  Roving field technician.
  • Adriana Betancourt, BSc. Sparrow nest predation.  White Oak Intern, North Florida.
  • Tannyr Lamica, BSc. Honors 2017. Interactive playback reveals aggressive escalation in vocalizations of tufted titmouse.
  • Lauren Diaz, BSc. In WEC, former NSF-funded research technician. MSc program at Clemson.
  • Jason Lacson, B.Sc. Honors 2015. Design of a camera trap for owls and other raptors using passerine distress calls. Working as a technician.
  • Jordon Davis, B.Sc. 2015. Distance, noise, and habitat complexity effects on spectral tag detection efficiency for parid vocalizations. Working as a technician.
  • Julie Perreau, BSc Honors 2014. Bluebird reproductive responses to different nest boxes and temperature.  Getting her MSc in Europe.
  • Amanda Powell, BSc Honors. 2013. Bluebird reproductive responses to perceived predation risk. Working lots of great internships!
  • Michael Bainum, BSc. 2013. Feral cat camera trapping in urban environs. Working lots of interesting jobs. Published his thesis!
  • Jessica Burnett, B.Sc. 2012. Testing whether actual and perceived landscapes of risk align. Completed MSc in WEC. Starting PhD in Oklahoma, Fall 2015.
  • Kelly Frye, B.Sc. Highest Honors. 2012. Social interactions and homing behavior. Now in UF Vet School.
  • Chelsea Heatherington, B.Sc. Highest Honors. 2011. Homing behavior in forest birds. Recipient NSF GF, now in grad school @ U Texas Austin
  • Derrick Thrasher, B.Sc. Honors. 2011. Painted bunting habitat use in Florida. Recipient NSF GF, now in PhD program @ Cornell.
  • Chloe Wright, B.Sc. Honors. 2010. Predation risk and bluebird reproductive behavior. Started PhD program in US.
  • Montana Atwater, B.Sc., Highest Honors.  2008.  University Scholar.  Native Dragonflies as Ag Pest-Consumers. MSc in UF Entomology; Now PhD abroad..
  • Scarlett Howell, B. Sc.  Highest Honors.  2006.  Functionally referential signals in birds. USFWS Biologist, San Diego, California.
  • Elizabeth Farley, B. Sc.  Highest Honors.  2004.  University Scholar.  Characterization of winter bird flocks.  MSc, University of Texas at Tyler, 2009. Doing PhD Texas Tech.
  • John Davis, B.Sc. Highest Honors.  2002. University Scholar.  Defense of roosting cavities by RCWs.  Doctoral Program at UGA Ecology; NSF Graduate Fellow.  Post doc at Idaho State Stream Ecology Center. Now works for the feds in Atlanta.
  • Justin Gude, B.Sc. Highest Honors.  2000.  Bird-assisted restoration of south-temperate rainforest.  M.Sc. Montana State University (NSF Graduate Fellow); Biologist with State of Montana.
  • Kimberly L. Maute, B.Sc. Honors. 1999.  Forest boundary crossing by mobbing passerines. Finished dissertation in Australia.
  • John P. Justus, B.Sc. Honors.  1998.  Nest predation pressures along inherent oak-pine forest boundaries.   Attended University of Colorado School of Law on a Merit Scholarship.  Associate, Buchanan & Sperling, Colorado, USA.
  • Gary M. Langham. B.Sc. Honors. 1995.  Pishing and Parids: a holarctic scolding homology. VP and Chief Scientist for National Audubon Society, Washington DC.  President of Neotropical Grassland Conservancy.