Sara Keen

Sara Keen


Name: Sara Keen
Position: Visiting DPhil Student


I am a PhD student in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, and a visiting student at EGI. I graduated from the University of Florida with a BS and MS in electrical engineering in 2008, and completed a masters in Ecology, Evolution and Environment Biology at Columbia University in 2011. My masters research focused on vocal signaling and recognition in cooperative African starlings, and since graduating I have continued to integrate my interests in digital signal processing and behavioral ecology working in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bioacoustics Research Program.

Research Activities:

My dissertation research will explore how information flow mediates cooperation between species, and how this in turn influences the structure of the broader interspecific social network. My work is focused on vocal signaling–primarily alarm calling and recruitment calling–and will examine how relative contributions to social information vary among and within species. I plan to develop realistic models of the costs and benefits of interspecific information transmission, and will test my behavioral predictions in the wild population of PIT-tagged birds in Wytham Woods. Using a combination of behavioral observations and automated measurements from RF-ID loggers, complemented by acoustical analyses ued to track signal propagation through time and space, I hope to broaden our understanding of interspecific communication and the forces that shape mixed-species social networks.


Keen S, Meliza C, Pilowsky J and Rubenstein DR (2016). Song in a social and sexual context: vocalizations signal identity and rank in both sexes of a cooperative breeder. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 4:46. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2016.00046

Keen, S.C., J.C. Ross, E.T. Griffiths, M. Lanzone, A. Farnsworth. 2014. A comparison of similarity-based approaches in the classification of flight calls of four species of North American wood-warblers (Parulidae). Ecological Informatics, 21:25-33.

Keen, S.C., C.D. Meliza, D.R. Rubenstein. 2013. Flight calls signal group and individual identity but not kinship in a cooperatively breeding bird. Behavioral Ecology, 24:1279-85.

Meliza, C.D., S.C. Keen and D.R. Rubenstein. 2013. Pitch- and spectral-based dynamic time warping methods for comparing field recordings of harmonic avian vocalizations. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 134:1407-1415.