Robin Tinghitella

Assistant Professor

What I do

I lead a research group at the University of Denver conducting basic and applied research to elucidate how behavior and ecology shape the elaborate and sometimes bizarre ornaments and armaments that animals use to secure mates.


Behavior, ecology, evolution

Professional Biography

As a behavioral ecologist, I work to understand how rapidly changing environments alter animal communication, particularly interactions between males and females. Researchers in my animal behavior lab use both insect and fish model systems and are supported by the National Science Foundation, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Animal Behavior Society. I graduated from the University of Portland with a B.S. in Biology before earning my Ph.D. in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at the University of California, where I studied the evolution of animal communication and social interactions. I then completed postdoctoral positions at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University (MSU). At MSU I led a National Science Foundation funded project linking ecology graduate students with K-12 teachers and students to improve the scientists’ teaching and communication skills. The experience ignited a long-lasting passion for science education and science communication.


  • Ph.D., Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology, University of California, Riverside, 2008
  • BS, Biology, University of Portland, 2002

Professional Affiliations

  • American Association of University Women
  • Animal Behavior Society
  • Entomological Society of America
  • International Society for Behavioral Ecology
  • Society for the Study of Evolution
  • The Orthopterists' Society
  • Sigma Xi

Media Sources


I am an evolutionary and behavioral ecologist. My lab works to understand the forces that shape diversity in animal communication and social systems. Much recent work has focused on how global change influences mating behavior and secondary sexual characteristics in natural populations. We use insect and vertebrate model systems and draw on expertise in field and laboratory behavioral studies as well as modern quantitative genetic and population genomic tools. Research interests include: sexual selection and mate choice, the evolution of novelty, conflict between natural and sexual selection, parental effects, sexual selection and speciation, experience-mediated phenotypic plasticity, and noise pollution. See our lab website for additional details: The University of Denver also has an active group of organismal biologists. Learn more about us at:

Key Projects

  • CAREER: Integrating contemporary evolution of animal communication in the field with science communication in our communities
  • DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Stress-induced parental effects on offspring mate choice: ultimate drivers and proximate mechanisms using the threespin stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
  • Sex in the Noisy City: Effects of Anthropogenic Noise on sexual selection and fitness

Featured Publications

Tinghitella, R., Broder, E. D., Gurule-Small, G. A., Hallagan, C., & Wilson, J. D. (2018). Purring crickets: The evolution of a novel sexual signal. American Naturalist.
Gurule-Small, G., & Tinghitella, R. (2018). Developmental experience with anthropogenic noise hinders adult mate location. Biology Letters.
Tinghitella, R., Lackey, A. R., Martin, M., Dijkstra, P., Drury, J. P., Heathcote, R., et al. (2017). On the role of male competition in speciation: a review and research agenda. Behavioral Ecology .
Larson, E. L., Tinghitella, R., & Taylor, S. (2019). Insect hybridization and climate change. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7, Article 348.


Tinghitella, R. (2019). How do new conversations begin? The evolution of a novel signal. Evolution 2019. Providence, RI: Society for the Study of Evolution .
Tinghitella, R. (2018). Grand gestures and love notes: reproduction in a changing world. University of Western Australia. Perth, Australia: University of Western Australia.
Tinghitella, R. (2018). How do new conversations begin? The evolution of a novel signal. Lund University Christmas Meetings of the Evolutionary Ecology Group. Lund, Sweden.
Tinghitella, R. (2019). How do new conversations begin? . Behaviour 2019. Chicago, IL: Animal Behavior Society.
Tinghitella, R. (2018). Maternal and paternal effects independently alter offspring mate choice. Steamboat, CO: Winter Animal Behavior Meeting.


  • Excellence in Service Award, University of Denver, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Excellence in Teaching, University of Denver
  • Faculty Career Champion, University of Denver
  • Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, University of Denver, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Warder Clyde Allee Award, Animal Behavior Society