Assistant Professor of Physiology
Research in my lab focuses on the vertebrate stress response and the effects of challenges (stressors) on physiology and behavior and how the response to challenge influences fitness. I collect physiological and behavioral data from a population of white-crowned sparrows each May and June in the eastern Sierra Mountains just outside Yosemite National Park in California. I also conduct studies of white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos in southern Maryland. Students in my lab may join me in the eastern sierras to collect data, collect data from bird populations around campus, and/or analyze previously collected plasma samples, field videos, and field activity data. My most recent work in the sierras examines the occurrence of breeding territory abandonment during inclement weather. Climate change has led to an increase in severity and inconsistency of weather patterns subjecting free-living organisms to more challenging events in an increasingly stochastic environment. Organismal responses to storms may affect reproductive success and thus fitness. For example, fleeing a storm may increase life-time survival but may also result in the loss of territory or nest abandonment. The factors that influence territory abandonment are not well understood, but hormonal influences on behavior make endocrine secretions prime candidates.