Research Interests: Greater Ani, Panama; Breeding Group Members; Division of Labor; Workload Inequality; Parental Synchronization; Parental Care; Reproductive Success.
Maria Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Before beginning graduate school at Princeton, Maria earned her bachelor's in biological sciences at Cornell University. Maria studies parental care and social behavior in birds and her dissertation focuses on individual variation in parental care and coordination among caregivers in a Neotropical bird, the Greater Ani (Crotophaga major), which inhabits tropical forests from Panama to Argentina. The Greater Ani has an unusual breeding system: multiple unrelated male-female pairs cooperate to raise their young in a single nest. Maria studies Greater Anis at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. She is describing how breeding group members might specialize on different parental care tasks (division of labor) and share overall workload unequally despite having equal parentage. Her work also explores the extent to which group members synchronize their parental behaviors. Overall, Maria aims to contribute to our understanding of details of parental care that have been overlooked despite their potential importance in determining reproductive success.
Maria has been supported during her Ph.D. by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.