Laurel B. Symes, Ph.D.

Assistant Director
Dr. Laurel Symes

My research focuses on the community ecology of communication: the way that interactions within and between species affect the production and perception of signals. To address these questions, I study a variety of taxa including crickets, katydids, frogs, bats and birds. My current research focuses on modeling phenological patterns in bird activity and understanding why birds sing when they do. To quantify singing activity, I am using automated recording and machine learning approaches to find and identify bird calls from a network of recorders in Sapsucker Woods and in Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire.

Previously, I have held post-doctoral positions at Dartmouth College (Neukom Fellowship), the University of Wisconsin and the Smithsonian Institute for Tropical Research. I completed my PhD at Dartmouth College and a B.S. in Biology at Denison University.

Year Hired: 2018


Contact Information

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

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). doi:
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).