Emily Griffith

Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Kimball
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"As a child I constantly found inspiration in the wildlife explorers and adventurers shown on TV stations such as Animal Planet. Their knowledge of our planet and their enthusiasm in studying the magnificent creatures on it left me entertained for hours - and gave me a goal to strive for. As I grew older I learned that exploration is not just found in fieldwork, but also in the thousands of questions and hypotheses you can study in your own classroom. In High School I became involved in a mix of field and lab research with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. That experience paved the way for my entry into two separate research labs at the University of Florida. Thus far, my work in these labs have defined my college experience and I hope they will lead me to a career in research and academia."


Zoology and Psychology



Research Interests

  • Animal Behavior
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Functional Morphology

Academic Awards

  • Silver Knight Honorable Mention - English 2014
  • Trusler Elite Leader-Scholar Certification Recipient 2015
  • Winner of Best Academic Poster - URAP Spring Symposium 2016
  • University Scholars Program 2016


  • IRHA


Hobbies and Interests

  • Baking/Cooking
  • Knitting/Crocheting
  • Painting
  • Dungeons and Dragons

Research Description

The Evolution of Tarsal Spurs in Galliformes
Galliformes, the order of birds which includes chickens, pheasants, and turkeys, are an interesting and diverse group of animals. One quality found in the majority of Galliformes species (yet not found anywhere else) is the presence of tarsal spurs. These structures can vary in size, shape and number between species - for relatively unknown reasons. Further, although spurs are known worldwide for their role in male-male competition (see: cockfighting) spurs are present in the females of several species.There are many questions regarding the presence, variability, function, and origin of tarsal spurs which have yet to be answered. Scientist G.W.H Davison hypothesized that spurs arose from a common ancestor and were lost in males as the need for fighting disappeared in some species. He also suggested that female spurs could be linked to social system. Charles Darwin offered a similar hypotheses in males, but remarked that female spurs were nothing more than a byproduct of males’. To date, tarsal spurs and their characteristics have never been investigated in a phylogenetic setting. Our goal is to change that. By placing Davison’s (combined with more recent) data on Galliformes into a phylogeny, this project will be able to determine how and when tarsal spurs have evolved - and will either support or deny prior hypotheses.  Further, this project strives to answer its own questions regarding the variability of spur characteristics between species and the presence of female tarsal spurs.