Energetically constrained animals have evolved adaptations to enhance caloric intake. On the other hand, animal competition sometimes turns into physical combat, and particular weaponry evolves. I perform theoretical and empirical research on each of these fronts, and study an unexpected case of their intersection: hummingbird bill weapons. My recent discoveries revive questions dating back to Darwin and Wallace about how these birds budget energy gain and expenditure to enable hovering, the most expensive form of locomotion, establishing coevolutionary relationships with flowers, and a peculiar adaptive radiation. These novel perspectives of a data-rich mutualistic system, open the door to quantitative and comparative assessments of trade-offs between energy optimality and fighting proficiency. I translate the insights from this work into testable hypotheses for a plethora of nectar-feeding animals, and the evolution and constraints of the evolution of combat traits in nature. My research is question-, rather than technique-driven; thus, I pursue cross-disciplinary approaches aimed to achieve a more complete integration across biological levels of organization.
I am a Biologist from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, where my mentor was Gary Stiles. For my PhD at the University of Connecticut, I worked with Margaret Rubega, and I was supported as a Fulbright Scholar. I carried out postdoctoral research as a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley, working with Robert Dudley. I received the Pitelka Award for excellence in research by the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, the Outstanding Student Paper Award by the Organization for Tropical Studies, the Best Doctoral Dissertation- Greg and Mona Anderson Award, by the UConn EEB Department, and 4 best oral presentation awards. I have authored 20 peer reviewed publications, 16 as first author, and 5 are highlighted on journal covers. I firmly believe that as biologists we have both the privilege to learn about the wonders of nature and the responsibility to share what we have learned with other scientists, and perhaps more importantly, with the wider community of non-scientists. My research has been featured by news media (e.g. New York Times, National Geographic Magazine), and in 5 nature documentaries / TV series.