The primary focus of our laboratory is in the general area of “ecological physiology.” Specifically, we study of the interactions among the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems and the behavior in a variety of ecologically relevant environmental contexts.
For example, many nontropical organisms experience pronounced fluctuations in environmental conditions (e.g., day length, ambient temperature, food availability, social interactions) across the seasons of the year. Consequently, individuals of a wide range of species have evolved specific adaptive mechanisms to cope with seasonal fluctuations in the environment. These adaptations may be physiological (e.g., changes in energy balance, reproductive function, or immunity) or behavioral (e.g., changes in foraging, migration, aggression, or social behavior).
The broad goal of our research is to identity the environmental and social factors contributing to seasonal changes in specific physiological and behavioral responses and to determine the neural, endocrine, and immune mechanisms underlying these changes. Although this research focuses primarily on rodent species (e.g., Siberian hamsters, deer mice, voles), we also address these questions in amphibian and avian species.