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Sang-im Lee

Assistant Professor


Dr. Sang-im Lee earned her BA, MSc, and PhD degrees in School of Biological Sciences at Seoul National University. Her PhD degree is about the fluctuations in the breeding ecology of magpies which she still continues to monitor. She expanded her horizons of research by working with mechanical engineers in the Institute of Advanced Machinery & Design at Seoul National University from 2008 to 2016. She has been teaching sharing her diverse multidisciplinary research experience at DGIST since 2016.
Tel +82-53-785-6613
E-mail sangim@dgist.ac.kr
Lab Lab of Integrative Animal Ecology


My research focuses on revealing adaptation in animals. Adaptation tells us fascinating scientific stories about how organisms are living on this planet and how they have been changing throughout the long history of evolution. Adaptation connects all subdisciplines of biology and even other scientific disciplines that are beyond the boundaries of biology. In our lab, we aim to reveal the diversity and the functional values of the adaptations of animals, with a focus on their morphology and behavior.


Our interests cover typical behavioral ecology where fitness benefits of certain behaviors are sought (Question 1 & 2 below), environmental ecology where the effects of environment change on the breeding ecology of animals are investigated (Question 3), and evolutionary ecology that requires multidisciplinary approaches between biology and other scientific disciplines (Question 4).

Research Summary

Research questions 


Question 1. Consequences of family dynamics in birds

    Once envisaged as a harmonic and altruistic unit, family of animals is now recognized as a group of relatives where not only cooperation but conflict also occur. We study the variation in parental strategies of males and females and its fitness consequence in magpies.  


Question 2. Cognitive ecology of birds 

   Family Corvidae is known to be a highly intelligent group, whose intelligence is comparable to the primates. However, only a small number of species in Corvidae has been thoroughly investigated, with many other species remaining to be studied. We aim to study cognitive ecology of several species of corvids to obtain a new broad understanding of the evolution and ecology of cognition in birds.


Question 3. Effect of climate change and urbanization on the breeding ecology of birds

   Due to global warming and urbanization that impact nearly all corners of the world, studying the response of animal populations to these environmental changes became very important in the field of ecology. In our lab, we study the patterns of breeding success variation in magpies in Korea and aim to elucidate its correlation with the climate change and urbanization.


Question 4. Functional morphology of birds and insects 

   Birds and insects have a variety of morphological features that intrigued not only biologists but also physicists, chemists, material scientists, and engineers. Among the morphological features, we are particularly interested in the aerodynamic and optic (i.e. color) phenomena of the wings of birds and insects. Through tight collaborations with scientists and engineers from other disciplines, we are currently investigating (i) the relationship between wingshape, flight pattern, and aerodynamic performance in birds, (ii) the function of microstructures on the legs on the movement on the water in waterstriders, and (iii) evolutionary ecology of structural colors in birds and insects.


Selected Publications

Question 1.

· Ha J, Lee K, Yang E, Kim W, Song H-K, Hwang I, Lee-Cruz L, Lee S-I, Jablonski PG. 2020. Experimental study of alarm calls of the oriental tit (Parus minor) toward different predators and reactions they induce in nestlings. Ethology. In press.
· Lee S-I, Choi J, Choe JC. 2012. Hunger is not the only determinant of nestling begging behavior and parental feeding in the Black-Billed Magpie Pica pica. Acta Ornithologica 47: 10-18. 


· Lee S-I, Seo K, Lee W, Kim W, Choe JC, Jablonski PG. 2011. Non-parental infanticide in a dense population of the Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica). Journal of Ethology 29; 401-407. 



Question 2.
· McCune KB, Jablonski PG, Lee S-I, Ha RR. 2019. Captive jays exhibit reduced problem-solving performance compared to wild conspecifics. Royal Society Open Science, 6: 181311. 

​  https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.181311
· Jablonski PG, Lee S-I, Fuszara E, Fuszara M, Jeong C, Lee WY. 2015. Proximate mechanisms of detecting nut properties in a wild population of Mexican Jays (Aphelocoma ultramarina). Journal of Ornithology 156: 163-172. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10336-015-1193-6

· Lee S-I. Hwang S, Joe YE, Cha HK, Joo GH, Lee HJ, Kim JW, Jablonski PG. 2013. Direct Look from a Predator Shortens the Risk-Assessment Time by Prey. PLoS ONE 8(6): e64977. 

· Lee WY, Lee S-I. Choe JC, Jablonski PG. 2011. Wild birds recognize individual humans: experiments on magpies, Pica pica. Animal Cognition 14: 817-825. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10071-011-0415-4

Question 3.
· Lee S-I, Lee H. Jablonski PG, Choe JC, Husby M. 2017. Microbial abundance on the eggs of a passerine bird and related fitness consequences between urban and rural habitats. PLoS ONE 12: e0185411. 

· Lee WY, Kim M, Jablonski PG, Choe JC, Lee S-I. 2014. Effect of incubation on bacterial communities of eggshells in a temperate bird, the Eurasian magpie (Pica pica). PLoS ONE 9: e103959. 


Question 4.
· Han C, Kim H, Jung H, Lee S-I, Jablonski PG, Jeon H. 2017. Origin and biomimicry of weak iridescence in black-billed magpie feathers. Optica 4: 464-467. 

· Yang EJ, Son JH, Lee S-I, Jablonski PG, Kim HY. 2016. Water striders adjust leg movement speed to optimize takeoff velocity for their morphology. Nature Communications 7: 13698. 

· Koh JS, Yang EJ, Jung GP, Jung SP, Son JH, Lee S-I, Jablonski PG, Wood RJ, Kim HY, Cho KJ. 2015. Jumping on water: Surface tension-dominated jumping of water striders and robotic insects. Science 6247: 517-521. 

· Lee S-I, Kim J, Park H, Jablonski PG, Choi H. 2015. The function of the alula in avian flight. Scientific Reports 5: 9914. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep09914


· Song S, Kim S, Kwon S, Lee S-I, Jablonski PG. 2018. Defense sequestration associated with narrowing of diet and ontogenetic change to aposematic colours in the spotted lanternfly. Scientific Reports 8: 16831. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-34946-y