Work in the Webster lab combines intensive field observation and experimentation with the use of molecular genetic markers (e.g., microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA) to investigate issues in evolution, behavioral ecology, and conservation biology. My own research centers primarily on the evolution of sexually elaborate traits (such as bright plumage coloration in birds) and "cryptic" reproductive behavior, such as extra-pair copulations and brood parasitism. I am particularly interested in the factors that shape female reproductive behavior, and also the role of sexual selection in promoting divergence between populations and species. I am also interested in the ecology and evolution of migratory birds, and am using phylogeographic approaches to understand their recent evolutionary history. Current students in my lab work on a variety of topics that overlap my own research, including the benefits and hormonal basis of multiple mating by female fairy-wrens, female reproductive strategies in brood parasitic ducks, the role of song in the extra-pair mating system of warblers, and the use of genetic markers to examine the diets of bats and dispersal of ground squirrels.
Webster, M. S., C. W. Varian, and J. Karubian. 2008. Plumage color and reproductive success in the red-backed fairy-wren: Why be a dull breeder? Behavioral Ecology 19:517-524.
Webster, M. S., K. A. Tarvin, E. M. Tuttle, and S. Pruett-Jones. 2007. Promiscuity drives sexual selection in a socially monogamous bird. Evolution 61:2205–2211.
Davis, L. A., E. H. Roalson, K. L. Cornell, K. McClanahan, and M. S. Webster. 2006. Genetic divergence and migration patterns in a North American passerine bird: implications for evolution and conservation. Molecular Ecology 15:2141-2152.
Webster, M. S., P. P. Marra, S. M. Haig, S. Bensch, and R. T. Holmes. 2002. Links between worlds: unraveling migratory connectivity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17:76-83.
Chuang-Dobbs, H. C., M. S. Webster, and R. T. Holmes. 2001. Paternity and parental care in the Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens). Animal Behaviour 62:83-92.
Webster, M. S., S. Pruett-Jones, D. F. Westneat, and S. J. Arnold. 1995. Measuring the effects of pairing success, extra-pair copulations and mate quality on the opportunity for sexual selection. Evolution 49:1147-1157.