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.
Humans make decisions on a daily basis that have an increasingly large global impact. In the face of large scale environmental changes, it is crucial that we understand how our activities affect wildlife in order to mitigate negative anthropogenic disturbances. Conservation physiology is an emerging field of research that applies physiological tools to assess the health and well-being of wildlife to aid in conservation and management strategies. My research in this area has focused on the impact of roads and mines on stress, health, reproduction, and survival in birds. Currently, I am involved in research assessing the impact of mining activity on the endangered Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae) in the Northern Territory, Australia. I am also currently collaborating with Dr. Jessica Malisch (St. Mary’s College of Maryland) to examine how roads affect avian communities outside Yosemite National Park, California, USA.
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.