Laurel B. Symes, Ph.D.

Dr. Laurel Symes
Dr. Laurel Symes

As the Assistant Director of the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, my goal is to maximize the accessibility and effectiveness of acoustic tools for research and conservation. I work with the Yang Center capacity building team to develop introductory and advanced training materials and courses, and to provide intensive professional mentorship and training. Scientifically, I coordinate the tropical biology research program, focusing in Central and South America and working with teams from Central Africa and Southeast Asia to develop research approaches and tools that span tropical terrestrial habitats.

In my research, I work at the intersection of ecology, evolution, conservation, and technical development. I conduct research across a variety of taxa, including insects, frogs, bats, and birds in both temperate and tropical systems. I have a particular research interest in the evolution of signaling rates, how often animals repeat signals over days, months, or years, a historically difficult data type to access. Signal rate is central to using acoustics to estimate population density, and is shaped by many factors, including morphology, physiology, seasonality, energetics, and interactions within and between species.

Year Hired: 2018

Contact Information
K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Room #148
159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
Phone: +1.607.254.2405

Ph.D., Dartmouth College, 2013
B.S., Denison University, 2007

Recent Publications

Soanes, L.M. et al. (2023) ‘Passive acoustic monitoring of birds in the Lesser Antilles—a useful tool for monitoring remote sites?’, Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, 36, pp. 62–74. Available at:
Rameau, A. et al. (2023) ‘Changes in Cough Airflow and Acoustics After Injection Laryngoplasty’, The Laryngoscope, 133(S3), pp. S1–S14. Available at:
Symes, L.B. et al. (2022) ‘Estimation of katydid calling activity from soundscape recordings’, Journal of Orthoptera Research, 31(2), pp. 173–180. Available at:
Calsbeek, R., Zamora-Camacho, F.J. and Symes, L.B. (2022) ‘Individual contributions to group chorus dynamics influence access to mating opportunities in wood frogs’, Ecology Letters, n/a(n/a). Available at:
Symes, L.B. et al. (2022) ‘Analytical approaches for evaluating passive acoustic monitoring data: A case study of avian vocalizations’, Ecology and Evolution, 12(4), p. e8797. Available at:
Palmer, C.M. et al. (2022) ‘Patterns of Herbivory in Neotropical Forest Katydids as Revealed by DNA Barcoding of Digestive Tract Contents’, Diversity, 14(2), p. 152. Available at:
Vega-Hidalgo, Á. et al. (2021) ‘Acoustic assessment of experimental reforestation in a Costa Rican rainforest’, Ecological Indicators, 133, p. 108413. Available at:
Symes, L.B. et al. (2021) ‘Daily Signaling Rate and the Duration of Sound per Signal are Negatively Related in Neotropical Forest Katydids’, Integrative and Comparative Biology [Preprint], (icab138). Available at:
ter Hofstede, H.M. et al. (2020) ‘Calling songs of katydids (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) from Panama’, Journal of Orthopteran Research. [Preprint].
Symes, L.B. et al. (2020) ‘Sheep in wolves’ clothing: prey rely on proactive defences when predator and non-predator cues are similar’, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 287. Available at:
Muñoz, V.E. et al. (2020) ‘Gone with the wind: Signal timing in a Neotropical katydid as an adaptive response to variation in wind-induced vibratory noise’, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 74(59). Available at:
Symes, L.B. and Wheatley, T. (2019) ‘Random is not real: How the patchy distribution of ecological rewards may generate incentive hope. Editorially-selected commentary’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 42.
Symes, L.B. et al. (2019) ‘Applying and refining DNA analysis to determine the identity of plant material extracted from the digestive tracts of katydids’, Peer J, 7(e6808). Available at:
Kopp, M. et al. (2018) ‘Mechanisms of assortative mating in speciation: connecting theory and empirical research’, The American Naturalist, 191, pp. 1–20.
Symes, L.B. (2018) ‘Spatial and temporal variation in three call traits and preferences of the tree cricket Oecanthus forbesi’, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 72(35).
Fitzpatrick, C.L. et al. (2018) ‘Theory meets empiry: a citation network analysis’, Bioscience, 68(10), pp. 805–812.
Symes, L.B. et al. (2018) ‘From understory to canopy: In situ behavior of Neotropical forest katydids in response to free-flying bats’, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6(27).