MY RESEARCH INTERESTS
When faced with anthropogenic change, animals that were once well-adapted to their environments find themselves struggling to survive. In these instances, the process of adaptation is often too slow to offer relief from environmental pressures. One of the few remaining strategies to cope with these changes is behavioral compensation. To understand the potential impacts of environmental perturbation on future populations, we must understand how the environment influences the development of behavioral phenotypes, and how those resulting phenotypes impact fitness under different environmental conditions. I am interested in investigating individual behavioral variation and cognition to understand how behaviors evolve and how human influence is actively shaping animal behavior.
MY ONGOING RESEARCH PROJECTS
PHD RESEARCH: INVESTIGATING THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF BEHAVIORAL SYNDROMES
Pinter-Wollman Lab, UCLA
I plan to use Camponotus floridanus as a model system to understand how the physical and social developmental environments interact with colonies' genetic backgrounds to shape their behavioral syndromes across ontogeny and examine how those resulting syndromes facilitate colony fitness in novel environments. I aim to shed light on the causes and consequences of behavioral syndromes and the role behavioral syndromes may play in species survival under climate change.
DO GENOTYPE BY ENVIRONMENT INTERACTIONS MEDIATE TRADE-OFFS BETWEEN DEVELOPMENT AND COGNITION?
Mortimer Lab, Illinois State University
Host-parasitoid interactions provide an exciting context to study tradeoffs between development and behavior. Many species of parasitoids prey upon specific developmental stages of host organisms, exerting selective pressure on the host to reduce the time spent in these susceptible life stages. However, many hosts also engage in behavioral defenses against parasitization that require energetically expensive cognitive processes. When faced with abiotic stress, how do hosts allocate their limited resources to the equally important processes of development and behavioral avoidance, and what is the role of genotype in mediating these tradeoffs? We sought to answer this question using host-parasitoid relationship between Drosophila and a species of parasitoid wasp, Leptopilina heterotoma. To understand the role of the abiotic environment and genotype in mediating development and cogniton, we raised seven genetically distinct strains of Drosophila in a factorial combination of temperature and nutrient conditions. To assess if these conditions resulted in tradeoffs, we evaluated the developmental trajectory of larvae reared in these conditions and the oviposition behavior they exhibited as adult animals. We found evidence for genotype by environment interactions affecting both developmental trajectory and oviposition behavior of adult females, as well as a correlation between developmental phenotype and adult oviposition behavior.
DOES EXPLORATORY PERSONALITY AFFECT PREY CAPTURE PROFICIENCY ACROSS A THERMAL RANGE?
Elias Lab, University of California, Berkeley
Exploratory personality, the propensity of an individual to actively explore novel environments, has been linked to improved competitive ability under stable environmental conditions. However, it is unclear how exploratory personality may influence fitness under variable environmental conditions. To understand how changing environmental contexts influence the benefits gained from an exploratory personality, we used a desert-dwelling ectothermic jumping spider (Habronattus pugillis Griswold), that regularly experiences environmental fluctuation as a model organism. Using an assay to quantify exploratory behavior, combined with prey capture assays performed at three biologically relevant temperatures, we examined the interaction of exploratory behavior and temperature on individuals’ prey capture behavior. We found that independent of exploratory personality; individuals were more successful at capturing prey at hotter temperatures. However, we did observe an interaction of temperature and exploratory personality on the latency to capture prey and the initial recognition of prey, such that more exploratory individuals are slower to recognize and capture prey at lower temperatures.