Broadly stated, the goal of my research is to study the origin and conservation of biodiversity. I study the evolution of social behavior, with a focus on mating systems. Why do some males and females form monogamous social bonds to care for their offspring, whereas others might try to mate with as many partners as possible? I use cichlid fishes from Central America as a model system to answer this question. Using the knowledge of the evolutionary relationships among species, it is possible to identify the causes and mechanisms underlying evolutionary transitions in behavior. Methods currently used involve behavior, ecology, anatomy, endocrinology, and systematics and taxonomy. The research justifies the conservation of threatened fish species and their habitats. Also, monogamy and polygamy are issues that humans struggle with in their everyday lives, so the research has important implications beyond fish conservation.
I also study behavioral ecology of local Ohio fishes in order to contribute to the conservation of native biodiversity.