Prum with Rupicola

I am an evolutionary ornithologist with broad interests in avian biology. I have done research on diverse topics, including avian phylogenetics, behavioral evolution, feather evolution and development, sexual selection and mate choice, sexual conflict, aesthetic evolution, avian color vision, structural color, carotenoid pigmentation, evolution of avian plumage coloration, historical biogeography, avian mimicry, and the theropod dinosaur origin of birds. For more details see my Research pages.

I have conducted field work throughout the Neotropics and in Madagascar, and have studied fossil theropods in China.

At Yale, I am the Curator of Ornithology and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. I have previously served as Chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (2008-2011).

From 2012-2017, I was the Director of Franke Program in Science and the Humanities (http://www.yale.edu/whc/frankeprogram.html), which is an initiative at Yale that aims to foster communication, mutual understanding, collaborative research and teaching among diverse scientific and humanistic disciplines. The Franke Program sponsored lectures, events, workshops, and courses that span the major traditional division of the university. It is made possible by the generosity of Richard (‘53) and Barbara Franke.


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. A.B. Cum Laude in Biology, 1982.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, 1989.

Work Experience

2004 to Present

William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

Curator of Ornithology, and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

2012 to Present          

Director, Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.


Chair, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

1991 - 2003    

Assistant Professor (1991-1997), Associate Professor (1997-2003), and Professor (2003), Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Curator  of  Ornithology, Natural History Museum,  University of Kansas, Lawrence,  Kansas. 

1989 - 1991    

Chapman Fellow, Department of Ornithology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York.

Honors and Awards

2018                Pulitzer Prize Finalist in General Nonfiction, Nominated Work– The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World- and Us

2010 - 2014    MacArthur Fellowship, John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, Illinois.

2011 - 2012    Ikerbasque Research Fellowship, Basque Foundation for Science, at the Donostia International Physics Center, San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain.

2007 - 2008    Guggenheim Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York, NY.

2001 - 2002    Fulbright Scholar Award, United States Department of State. Six month research and teaching award at the Universidade Estadual do Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil.


At Yale University, I now teach and undergraduate classes in Ornithology (EEB 272), Introductory Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (Biol 104), and ungraduate and graduate seminars. I have previously taught undergraduate classes in  Evolution, the Diversity of Life, Evolutionary, an undergraduate seminar in Bird Behavior, and graduate training in the Ethical Conduct of Research.

In Fall 2014, I served as Yale’s William Clyde DeVane Professor. I taught an interdisciplinary course open to all Yale students, and the general public entitled “The Evolution of Beauty: From Warblers to Warhol.”

Undergraduates interested in doing independent independent research can contact me anytime.