FSU biological scientist named president-elect of Animal Behavior Society

Emily DuVal, professor of biological sciences at Florida State University.
Emily DuVal, professor of biological sciences at Florida State University.

A Florida State University biologist has been named president-elect of the Animal Behavior Society, a leading professional organization that advances research and education in the field of animal behavior.

Professor of Biological Sciences Emily DuVal will take over the chair in 2026.

“I am humbled and inspired by this election,” said DuVal. “Being chairman of the ABS is a huge responsibility, and I’m honored that my colleagues chose to entrust this to me.”

Instead of electing officials for one or two years, society is spreading responsibilities to ensure everyone is equipped to tackle the challenges of their respective positions, she said.

“I have no doubt that I will learn so much from this experience,” said DuVal. “The ABS leadership plan supports the development of managerial skills in their elected officials and ensures continuity between generations of leadership, for which I am extremely grateful.”

Founded in 1965, ABS consists of 2,000 scientists from universities and institutions around the world who research how and why animals behave in certain ways. The ABS also publishes the scientific journal Animal Behavior, hosts major conferences each year, provides thousands of competitive grants to support student research, and recognizes significant contributions to the field through a series of elite research awards.

“Emily has demonstrated great leadership skills during her time at Florida State and has clearly done the same while serving in the Animal Behavior Society,” said Sam Huckaba, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “To be elected president by her peers is a great honor and one that highlights the excellence of the Department of Biological Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences.”

DuVal is an animal ecology and evolution expert who specializes in the evolution of complex social behaviors in wild birds, such as their courtship and mating processes. The DuVal Lab studies cooperation and mate choice of lance-tailed manakins in the tropical forests of Panama and nuthatches in the longleaf forest of the Tallahassee area.

“Aiming to understand what factors influence complex social behavior and partnership stability in these birds, we are studying why subordinate, non-breeding males help others court females or raise offspring,” DuVal said. “We study how alliances come about and what the dominant breeders derive from these partnerships. We also study how changing social and environmental contexts can alter individual decisions to help others or breed independently.”

Over the years, three DuVal Lab students have received the Charles Henry Turner Award from the Animal Behavior Society, which allows undergraduate researchers from a competitive pool of applicants to present their research at the annual ABS conference, participate in workshops and be able to make connections with scientists working in different areas of the field. Most recently, Yousi Espanol-Rincon, a Spring 2022 graduate, presented her honorary title – researching the effects of maternal care in green lynx spiders – at the ABS conference in Costa Rica last July.

PhD students from the Department of Biological Sciences also benefit from ABS support through substantial research grants and detailed feedback on proposals from experienced researchers in their field.

“I am very excited to be an even bigger part of all the great things the ABS is doing on a national and international level,” said DuVal. “I have seen firsthand how programs and grants provided by the society broaden students’ view of science as a career, increase their confidence in interacting with professionals in the field, and contribute to general life skills such as communication. I am proud to be part of an organization that does so much to support and promote behavioral research at all career stages.”

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