In the laboratory we examine the impressive biological diversity that is expressed in morphological, ecological and behavioral traits, in order to try to understand the evolution of traits, why there is variance in traits between populations and what are the mechanisms that have led to the formation of certain traits; for example, whether certain traits such as body size or plumage color, constitute adaptation to local environmental conditions (such as temperature or precipitation). In the laboratory we combine field work that includes observations and experiments in laboratory conditions with molecular genetic work in the laboratory in order to find the connections between behavior, ecology and evolution. In recent years the research work in the laboratory has focused on invasive species, in order to examine the traits that enable a species or population to invade and become successfully established in new places to which they are brought. In many cases, invasive species have a negative influence on the new environment and they are liable to damage the local biological diversity. On the other hand, biological invasion events are a wonderful opportunity to research ecological and evolutionary processes in real time. In our studies of one of the most successful invasive birds – the common myna, we found that invasive populations of mynas spread due to their success in coping with changes that humans create in the environment, and they are characterized by behavioral traits that help them to invade successfully. These studies can help find ways to cope with invasive species and reduce their influence on the environment.
The laboratory is located in the Zoological Garden in the School of Zoology in Tel Aviv University. The research is in partnership with researchers from the School of Zoology and with additional researchers from overseas in the framework of joint research grants.