Michael Sorenson

Associate Dean of the Faculty, Natural Sciences; Professor of Biology, College of Arts & Sciences

Michael Sorenson is the Associate Dean of the Faculty, Natural Sciences, at Boston University.

His research emphasizes molecular genetic approaches to problems in avian systematics, population biology, and behavioral ecology. Avian brood parasitism spurred his interest in evolutionary biology as a student, and parasitic birds have continued to be the focus of much of his work. Current research includes: 1) Analyses of the population structure and evolutionary history of indigobird populations and species. Indigobirds are species-specific brood parasites of a number of estrildid finch hosts and have evolved nestling mouth markings that mimic those of the host. Parasitic nestlings also learn host songs and adult male parasites incorporate these songs into their courtship displays, resulting in assortative mating among parasites reared by the same host species.

He is exploring the evolutionary history and population genetic consequences of this unique social system using large multilocus data sets and analyses based on coalescent theory. The work has included recent field work in Cameroon and Tanzania. 2) Molecular systematic analyses of the various groups of avian brood parasites. How many times has obligate brood parasitism evolved in birds, what are the relative ages of the various parasitic lineages, and how is each group of parasitic birds related to their hosts? 3) Molecular systematics and population genetics of the waterfowl (Family Anatidae: the ducks, geese, and swans). Students in his lab have worked on fish, bats, ants, and a variety of other birds, addressing various questions in evolutionary ecology and systematics.