Laurel Symes

Assistant Director, K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics


Bioacoustics • Ecology • Evolution

As the Assistant Director of the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, I conduct research in North and South American ecosystems, coordinate education and engagement programs, and contribute to the Cornell Lab’s engineering efforts. I am particularly interested in studying communities using acoustics—understanding the evolution of animal signals and how we can use computer algorithms to detect animal signals to monitor and study populations.

To address these questions, I study animals including crickets, katydids, frogs, bats, and birds. My current research focuses on modeling phenological patterns in bird activity to understand when birds arrive and begin to sing; and how the singing activity of one individual influences the singing patterns of other individuals and species across a landscape.

To quantify singing activity, I use automated recording and machine-learning approaches to find and identify bird calls from a network of recorders in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Sapsucker Woods and in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire.


Ph.D., Biology, Dartmouth College
B.S., Biology, Denison University

Outside the Lab

I received my tree climbing certification through Cornell and now climb trees in Panama as part of my research. This does not eliminate my dislike of heights.

Recent Publications

Soanes, L. M., D. Carter, L. B. Symes, J. C. Daltry, H. Klinck, C. Lloyd, and F. Mukhida (2023). Passive acoustic monitoring of birds in the Lesser Antilles—a useful tool for monitoring remote sites? Journal of Caribbean Ornithology 36:62–74.
Symes, L. B., S. Madhusudhana, S. J. Martinson, C. E. Kernan, K. B. Hodge, D. P. Salisbury, H. Klinck, and H. ter Hofstede (2022). Estimation of katydid calling activity from soundscape recordings. Journal of Orthoptera Research 31:173–180.
Calsbeek, R., F. J. Zamora-Camacho, and L. B. Symes (2022). Individual contributions to group chorus dynamics influence access to mating opportunities in wood frogs. Ecology Letters.
Symes, L. B., K. D. Kittelberger, S. M. Stone, R. T. Holmes, J. S. Jones, I. P. Castaneda Ruvalcaba, M. S. Webster, and M. P. Ayres (2022). Analytical approaches for evaluating passive acoustic monitoring data: A case study of avian vocalizations. Ecology and Evolution 12:e8797.
Palmer, C. M., N. L. Wershoven, S. J. Martinson, H. M. ter Hofstede, W. J. Kress, and L. B. Symes (2022). Patterns of Herbivory in Neotropical Forest Katydids as Revealed by DNA Barcoding of Digestive Tract Contents. Diversity 14:152.
Vega-Hidalgo, Á., E. Flatt, A. Whitworth, and L. Symes (2021). Acoustic assessment of experimental reforestation in a Costa Rican rainforest. Ecological Indicators 133:108413.
Symes, L. B., T. Robillard, S. J. Martinson, J. Dong, C. E. Kernan, C. R. Miller, and H. M. ter Hofstede (2021). Daily Signaling Rate and the Duration of Sound per Signal are Negatively Related in Neotropical Forest Katydids. Integrative and Comparative Biology.
Hofstede, H. M. ter, L. B. Symes, S. J. Martinson, T. Robillard, P. Faure, S. Madhusudhana, and R. A. Page (2020). Calling songs of Neotropical katydids (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) from Panama. Journal of Orthoptera Research 29(2):137–201.
Symes, L. B., S. J. Martinson, C. E. Kernan, and H. M. ter Hofstede (2020). Sheep in wolves' clothing: Prey rely on proactive defenses when predator and non-predator cues are similar. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 287.
Muñoz, V. E., N. A. Quiroga, L. B. Symes, H. M. ter Hofstede, R. A. Page, R. Simon, J. Ellers, and W. Halfwerk (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.
Symes, L. B., and T. Wheatley (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., N. L. Wershoven, L. Hoeger, J. S. Ralston, S. J. Martinson, H. M. ter Hofstede, and C. M. Palmer (2019). Applying and refining DNA analysis to determine the identity of plant material extracted from the digestive tracts of katydids. Peer J 7.
Symes, L. B., S. J. Martinson, L. Hoeger, R. A. Page, and H. M. Hofstede (2018). From understory to canopy: In situ behavior of Neotropical forest katydids in response to bat echolocation calls. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 6.
Laurel Symes
Center K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics

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Golden-cheeked Warbler by Bryan Calk/Macaulay Library