Sarah Bush, assoc. teaching prof.

Johannes Schul and I have been collaborating on our research since we met at MU in 1997. My background is in the behavioral ecology of amphibians (PhD thesis: Courtship and male parental care in the Mallorcan midwife toad, Alytes multensis, from the University of East Anglia in England). I came to MU to study communication in the gray treefrogs with Carl Gerhardt. Johannes and I worked together on the treefrog project before turning our attention to the local katydid communty. (We still dabble in treefrogs every now and then.)

Johannes and I are co-PIs on the NSF grant 'The evolution of novel traits in the acoustic communication system of Neoconocephalus (Orthoptera, Tettigoniidae).' We are studying how the communication system in this group of insects has diversified, both in male calls and in female preferences. I use the spherical walking compensator (a.k.a. 'the kugel') to determine which attributes of the male calls are used by the females to identify conspecific males. By mapping the male calls and female recognition mechanisms onto the phylogeny of the genus, we aim to understand how diversification in the communication system proceeds, and how the communication system may be linked to the process of speciation.

Two additional research projects keep me busy: 1) The role of resonant neurons in rate recognition. For species in which females attend to the pulse rate of the male call, I use psycho-acoustic experiments to determine whether the nervous system could be using a resonance-mechanism to recognize the correct rate. This is part of a larger project to understand how the nervous system filters temporal properties of the calls. 2) Leader preferences and call synchronization. I worked with Joey Tauk (an undergraduate) to determine whether leader preferences are inevitable in species in which males synchronize their verses. Previous researchers had hypothesized that contra-lateral inhibition in the hearing system is responsible for wide-spread leader preferences in katydids. Our data indicate that not all species possess a leader preference, and the hypothesized neural explanation for leader preferences is inadequate to explain the phenomenon.

I teach three courses at MU. Bio 1010 is a large-lecture introductory course for non-majors. Community Biology (Bio 3100) is an upper-level, mixed-majors course that combines ecology and evolution. Animal Communication (Bio 4642) is a senior-level biology course with a focus on reading and discussing primary literature; the course addresses both mechanistic and evolutionary issues in the field of animal communication. If you have any questions about these courses, you can contact me at