My research interests are: Speciation, hybrid zone dynamics, mate choice and sexual selection, signal evolution, genetics of adaptive evolution and diversification. I think my way into biological sciences had two main causes. First, as long as I can remember I have been deeply fascinated by nature and in particular the natural history of birds. This “love affair” probably led me into the biological sciences when I discovered the mind-opening theories of evolution from reading popular science by masters such as Richard Dawkins. Combining essentially bird watching with intellectual challenges suddenly seemed like a splendid idea.
I have a broad taste in biology. I started my scientific career in the field of behavioral ecology under the supervision of Tore Slagsvold, studying the (behavioural) significance of plumage colour variation in the pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) (e.g. Sætre et al. 1994, 1995). However, pretty soon evolutionary genetics became an important tool in my research. For many years speciation and hybridization in Ficedula flycatchers was my main focus of research. Highlights from these years includes a demonstration that natural selection against unfit hybrids has reinforced premating barriers among sympatric pied and collared flycatchers F. albicollis (Sætre et al. 1997) as well as work on the role of sex chromosomes in speciation (e.g. Sætre et al. 2003; Sæther et al. 2007; Sætre & Sæther 2010). More recently I have also collaborated with Håvard Kauserud and his group on phylogeography and speciation in fungi. Now my research group mainly focuses on speciation, hybridization and adaptation among Passer sparrows. A most exiting recent finding is the demonstration of hybrid origin of the Italian sparrow (Hermansen et al. 2011; Elgvin et al. 2011).