Charles R. Brown is a behavioral ecologist interested in the evolution of social behavior. He studies primarily cliff swallows that live in colonies of different sizes, and has been conducting research on them for the last 43 years at the same field site in western Nebraska. His research has focused on behavior, ecology, parasites and disease transmission, quantitative genetics, and rapid evolutionary change. His is one of the longest-running field studies in North America by the same investigator. Brown is best known for his early work showing costs of ectoparasitism that increase with group size, the demonstration of information centers in cliff swallows, discovering high rates of intraspecific brood parasitism, documenting rapid morphological change in response to severe weather, and, more recently, showing how cliff swallows have evolved to avoid being killed by road traffic, studying how adult survival fluctuates with climate, and describing how cliff swallows have developed tolerance to their parasites over time. Brown has also worked on a virus associated with cliff swallows and their parasites, and has characterized how this virus has adapted to both its ancestral host, the cliff swallow, and an invasive species, the house sparrow.
Awards and Honors
2022, University Outstanding Researcher Award, The University of Tulsa. 2011, Exemplar Award (for “major long-term contributions to the study of animal behavior”), Animal Behavior Society. 2009, Elliot Coues Award (for “extraordinary contributions to ornithological research”), American Ornithologists’ Union. 2003, Harry R. Painton Award (for best paper published in the Condor), Cooper Ornithological Society.
1991, Distinguished Alumnus Award, Austin College. 1984, W. C. Allee Award for best student paper, Animal Behavior Society. 1981, National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
- Ph.D., Princeton University
- B.A., Austin College
Research interests and areas of expertise
- Behavioral ecology
- Animal behavior
- Disease ecology
- Animal social behavior
- Rapid evolution