A component of my research examines the phenotypic and fitness effects of exposure to stress during development. Developing animals are susceptible to perturbations to their environment such as food availability, exposure to the stress hormone corticosterone, or anthropogenic disturbances. My research examines the immediate and sustained phenotypic and fitness effects of developmental stress across life-history stages using birds as a model system.
Anthropogenic noise and birds
Roads impact ecosystems by fragmenting habitat, increasing land use by people, causing road mortality of wildlife, and altering the composition of native plant and animal communities. Roads have also been shown to increase glucocorticoid stress hormones in multiple taxonomic groups. My research in this area focuses on the effects of roads on nestling white-crowned sparrows outside Yosemite National Park, California. The continual increase in both roads and human population make understanding the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on wildlife a matter of concern for both management and conservation.
Reproductive readiness in opportunistically breeding birds
Birds that breed in environments where the resources are unpredictable maintain a continuous state of reproductive readiness. Maintaining a degree of reproductive readiness allows birds to rapidly initiate reproduction when favorable conditions are encountered. My research examines the physiological mechanisms that allow birds to maintain a state of reproductive readiness across heterogenous environments. My research in this area has focused on wild zebra finches; an iconic opportunistic breeder.