Danner Lab members

Danner Research and Teaching Lab

Engaged evolutionary ecology and conservation of birds

We use a variety of approaches to understand how animals interact with their environment and each other, and how they evolve. Current foci include thermal ecology of birds, the population biology of coastal birds of conservation concern, bird song evolution, and morphological adaptation. Current field research takes place 15 minutes from the Danner Lab in the beautiful salt marshes and beaches of North Carolina! We supplement information from the field with data collected in behavior, physiology, and genetics labs, the museum, and through computer modeling. We integrate this research into a variety of learning experiences.

Dr. Danner describes research and teaching in the lab and the Department of Biology and Marine Biology from UNCW Ofc of Univ Relations.

Graduate students Evan and Marae describe marsh sparrow research in a Micro Documentary for FST 398 from Dylan Bradshaw.

Follow danner_lab on Instagram!


Sep: Ray is humbled to receive the College of Arts and Sciences Innovation in Teaching Award for his use of small-group active learning in Ornithology!

Aug: Marae Lindquist (PhD student) was awarded the competitive NC Sentinel Site Sea Grant Fellowship!

         We are thrilled to welcome new lab member Miles Buddy (freshman)!

Jul: Lauren Schaale gave an oral presentation and Marae Lindquist presented a poster at the American Ornithological Society meeting in Anchorage, Alaska!

Jun: Lauren Schaale sucessfully defended her MS thesis entitled "Viewing habitat through another lens: Bird nest site selection and productivity across the beach thermal landscape" and was hired as a Coastal Scientist at Bald Head Island Conservancy! Congratulations Lauren!

         Sara Evans (undergraduate) started a new project using SongEvo!

May: Juan Zuluaga (undergraduate student) was awarded a prestigous UNCW SURCA fellowship to study the migratory behaviors of seaside sparrows that breed in North Carolina! Congratulations Juan! Then we started the fieldwork!

         Rebekkah LaBlue successfully defended her honors thesis entitled "Sweating the speckles: Darker least tern eggshells become hotter under direct solar radiation." Congratulations Rebekkah!

Mar: New software package: SongEvo version 1.0.0 is now available on CRAN!

         Lauren, Evan, and Marae presented their research at the North Carolina Waterbirds Conservation Planning Meeting!

Jan–Apr: First field season studying the winter biology of seaside and saltmarsh sparrows!

Jan: Lauren (MS student) presented a poster about her research on the thermal landscape at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting in Tampa, FL!

         We are thrilled to welcome 2 new lab members: Tara Clancy and Ryan Walsh (undergraduate researchers).


Dec: We started a new project on the winter biology of seaside and saltmarsh sparrows! This project involves 2 graduate students (Marae and Evan), several undergraduate students, and a partnership with NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

         New paper: Heat stress reduces female bird discrimination of song.

Nov: Rebekkah (honors student) presented a poster about her research on egg coloration at the UNCW SURCA session!

         You can now download SongEvo, our new software package that simulates bird song evolution!

Oct: New paper: Ambient noise can drive cultural evolution of bird song.

Sep: Rebekkah LaBlue (honors student) described her research in a blog post for Audubon NC.

         Juan Zuluaga (undergrad) launched the Seahawk Migration Station!

Aug: We are thrilled to welcome 4 new lab members: Marae Lindquist (MS student), and Jose Francisco, Madeline Miller, and Juan Zuluaga (undergraduate researchers).

Jul: Lauren Schaale (MS student) described her research in a blog post for Audubon NC.

         New paper: Tropical birds molt more slowly than arctic birds.

May: Rebekkah LaBlue received a SURCA Fellowship and CSURF award for her research on the evolution of eggshell coloration in least terns!

         Robert Snowden defended an excellent MS thesis on the thermal biology of incubating least terns!

         New paper: Methods for sparrow husbandry.

Feb: New paper: Darwin's finch bills aid in heat balance.


Jul: New papers: Urban birds are flexible in vocal signalling, but rural birds are not. Some signals are not flexible.

Jun: New paper: Bird diversity in actively and naturally restored tropical forests.

Apr: Began studying nesting behavior of least terns!

         New paper: Birds response depends on signal attributes.

Mar: New paper: Culture and geography influence bird population genetics in an equatorial sparrow.

Feb: Ray and Dr. Carolina Priester started using anatomical imaging in their classes! See the coverage from UNC.

Jan: Robert Snowden was named the 2017 Seagrant/NERR Research Fellow!


Nov: New paper: Habitat-specific divergence of air conditioning structures in bird bills. Be sure to check out the video!

Sep: New paper: Males with larger bills sing at higher rates in a hot and dry environment.

Aug: Ray and colleagues presented a symposium on heat stress in birds at the North American Ornithogical Conference in Washington, DC.

Jun: New paper: The winter biology of the Atlantic song sparrow.

Apr: New paper: Bird songs across the soundscape.

Jan: Danner Lab established.

1. Thermal ecology of birds: How do birds survive and breed at high temperatures?

Least tern panting on a hot summer day at Wrightsville Beach. Photo by Robert Snowden.

2. Population biology of coastal birds of conservations concern: How many birds are there, what are their needs, and what threats do they face?

Swamp sparrow.

3. Bird song evolution: How does bird song evolve?

    Download SongEvo, our new software package that simulates bird song evolution!

Spectrogram of rufous collared sparrow song.

4. Anatomical description through 3d modeling.

    This research focuses on birds and a variety of other species, including humans!

Dr. Danner's courses at UNCW:

    Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (Biology 315, most spring semesters)

    Ornithology (Biology 456, most fall semesters)

    Animal Migration (Biology 495, most semesters)

Active learning with high school students:

    Surviving the Heat: Beach bird thermal biology. A full-day active learning experience with UNCW Ocean's 17 summer camp.

    Surviving the Heat: Beach bird thermal biology, with Ashley High School.

    A bird’s eye view of the thermal landscape, a half-day learning experience for UNCW’s OCEANS summer camp for high school students.


    High school students, Lauren Schaale (MS student), and Dr. Danner develop hypotheses before heading into the field to collect data.

    Contact Dr. Danner to adapt a learning experience for your class!

Ray Danner, PhD. Curriculum vitae (pdf). Google Scholar profile. GitHub.

Marae Lindquist (PhD student): Thesis: Marsh sparrow winter biology.

Evan Buckland (MS student): Thesis: Marsh sparrow winter biology.

Rebekkah LaBlue (Undergraduate honors student): Thesis: Darker least tern eggshells become hotter under direct solar radiation.

Madeline Miller (Undergraduate honors student): Thesis: Exploration of the human brain with anatomical imaging.

Juan Zuluaga (Undergraduate honors student): Thesis: The migratory behavior of seaside sparrows in North Carolina.

Jose Francisco (Research assistant): Projects: A little bit of everything.

Miles Buddy (Research assistant): Projects: A little bit of everything.

Ryan Walsh (Directed Independent Study student): Project: The effects of sand color and grain size on the beach thermal landscape.

Sara Evans (Undergraduate researcher): Project: Modeling song evolution with SongEvo.

Lauren Schaale (MS, June 2019): MS Thesis: Viewing habitat through another lens: Bird nest site selection and productivity across the beach thermal landscape. Current position: Coastal Scientist at Bald Head Island Conservancy.

Robert Snowden (MS, May 2018): MS Thesis: Least tern thermoregulation in response to environmental temperature and human disturbance. Current position: Seasonal Ornithologist at Audubon Starr Ranch

Tara Clancy (Directed Independent Study student): Project: Marsh sparrow winter biology.

Daniel Hertzberg (BS, May 2017): Undergraduate Honor's Thesis: The effects of food availability on bird feather melanin concentration.

Tyler Dodson (BS, May 2017): Directed Independent Study project: A study of the human brain ventricles using anatomical images (pdf).

Johnathan DeBetta (BS, May 2016): Directed Independent Study project: Applied learning of vertebrate anatomy using CT-scans and MRIs.

Prospective graduate students: Dr. Danner accepts MS and PhD students when space and funding are available. If you are interested in conducting a MS thesis or PhD dissertation with Dr. Danner, please email a cover letter, resume, and GRE scores, and see the graduate program webpage.

Prospective undergraduate students: Dr. Danner accepts honors thesis and DIS students when space is available in the lab. If you are interested, please send Dr. Danner an email with your interests and rationale for the DIS.

Donate a bird nest: If you would like to donate a bird nest for Dr. Danner's Ornithology students to study, please email Dr. Danner!

Donate financially: If you would like to support our students, research, and outreach financially, please donate to the Ornithology Fund online. If you'd like to discuss specific donations, please call or email Dr. Danner (910-962-7895, dannerR@uncw.edu). This money goes directly to student activities. Even a little money can go a long way!

Email: dannerR@uncw.edu

Phone (office): +1 (910) 962 - 7895

Address: UNC Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, USA