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Grace Smith Vidaurre

Ongoing Projects


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Origins and shared selection pressures in a biological invader

Biological invaders introduced repeatedly and independently across the world are powerful natural experiments to ask questions about adaptation to human-altered habitats. However, to ask such questions, it is crucial to identify source populations for invasive populations, and determine whether invaders arose from several sources. Together with Dr. Michael Russello at the University of British-Columbia, and collaborators at the National Center of Genome Resources and elsewhere, we are using a genomic approach to identify origins and natural selection pressures of invasive monk parakeet populations.

UBC - Dr. Michael Russello

National Center of Genome Resources

Cultural evolution post-invasion in monk parakeets

Monk parakeets have previously been found to exhibit mosaic patterns of acoustic similarity among neighboring nesting sites in the United States (part of their invasive range). These patterns indicate that invasive parakeets use shared call structure to signal group membership over local geographic areas. However, our research with native parakeets in Uruguay did not identify mosaic patterns at any geographic scale, but rather strong individual signatures. In this collaboration with undergraduate student Valeria Perez and others, we are performing a direct comparison of calls from the invasive and native ranges to ask whether signaling of social information in monk parakeets has changed as a result of their invasion process.

A trade-off in signaling social information among three vocal learning species

In an extension of our work with monk parakeet calls, we used our analytical approach on calls from two other parrot species: yellow-naped amazons (Amazona auropalliata) and thick-billed parrots (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha). We found a striking contrast in the social information encoded in calls across species. Yellow-naped amazons converged on shared call structure across several social scales, including regional populations, but weak individual signatures. Thick-billed parrots and monk parakeets exhibited weak convergence on shared call structure within sites, and strong individual signatures. This finding indicates that vocal learning species face a trade-off in signaling social information in learned acoustic signals, which likely reflect differences in underlying social dynamics.

The social environment is key to rapid adaptation through epigenetic processes

This review in the works synthesizes findings from the literature on epigenetic processes in the broad sense to suggest useful directions for future research. This review is particularly targeted towards questions about adaptation to new and/or human-altered environments, as this area of ecology & evolutionary biology has traditionally focused on epigenetics processes in the narrow (molecular) sense.

Other Projects

Temporal and spatial stability of regional dialects in yellow-naped amazons

I am a collaborator in this ongoing project led by Dr. Christine Dahlin at the Unviersity of Pittsburgh. Together with Dr. Dahlin and other collaborators, we are evaluating the temporal stability of regional dialects in yellow-naped amazons that arise from vocal learning. This project will first tackle temporal stability of calls recorded over two decades in Costa Rica, and then spatial stability of calls recorded in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where we extended our geographic sampling of yellow-naped amazons in 2016. I am currently working on acoustic analysis for the temporal stability questions.

Genetics of naturalized North American parrot species

I am a collaborator on this book chapter with Dr. Michael Russello and my PhD mentor, Dr. Tim Wight. This chapter outlines how genetic approaches and tools can lead to important insight about naturalized parrot origins, establishment and spread in North America. We used ring-necked parakeets and monk parakeets as case study in this chapter, as there is generally little genetic research on invasive parrot populations. In review by editor.