My research program is broadly interested in how animals respond to changes in their environment, and how these responses are mediated by individual variation. Some of the projects my students and I are currently working on are described below. See here for a full list of publications.
REPRODUCTIVE BEHAVIOR IN TREE SWALLOWS
We have studied the reproductive behavior of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) in a field near Amherst College since 2004. Our early studies focused on age- and condition-related reproductive decisions by female swallows, particularly in the context of incubation. More recently, we have investigated the effects of hematophagous ectoparasites on the development and fledging success of juvenile swallows. Collaborators on this project have included Dan Ardia (Franklin & Marshall), Alex Gerson and his students (University of Massachusetts), Sarah Knutie (University of Connecticut), and Sarah Wolf (Indiana University).
COLORATION AND VISUAL ECOLOGY OF CONVICT CICHLIDS
Since 2008 we have been studying the behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary significance of coloration in convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata and A. siquia). These species exhibits reverse sexual dichromatism; females display carotenoid-based ventral coloration that males lack. Previously we have investigated the role of these carotenoid pigments in enhancing offspring survival, antioxidant defense, and protection against pathogenic bacteria. We are currently examining the role of visual sensitivity in mediating genetic differentiation and possibly sympatric speciation. The project includes former Ph.D. student Lexi Brown (University of Massachusetts) as well as collaborators Ryan Earley (University of Alabama) and Jenny Gumm (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
FUNCTIONAL MORPHOLOGY IN CRAYFISH
A more recent project is on the biomechanics and fluid dynamics of the tail-flip escape response in Faxonius crayfish. This project has involved collaborations with Todd Currier, Adrian Carleton, and Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi in the Fluid-Structure Interactions laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, and Brooke Flammang at the Fluid Locomotion Lab at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The second paper from this collaboration -- which focuses on substrate interactions during the escape response -- is currently in the works.