We are studying bird family life from a behavioral and evolutionary ecological perspective. The family forms a (social) environment with crucial influence on individual fitness and trait evolution. Traits expressed in a family context follow complex evolutionary trajectories because they are agent and target of selection and in addition their evolution is flavoured by a conflict over parental investment.
Within this Family Ecology framework we are particularly interested in the evolution of parental care. We study the resolution of family conflicts (parent-offspring conflict, sexual conflict), the quantitative genetics of parental care (combined with selection lines for high and low begging), the hormonal regulation of offspring begging during sibling competition, the evolutionary ecology of (hormone-mediated) maternal effects, and the role of phenotypic plasticity in parent-offspring communication (via behavioural reaction norm approaches).