Current Projects


Death to RNases (Arielle Caplin, ’15 & ZMBF. Photo by B. Simpson)

Effects of variation in early developmental environments on gene expression. We are interested in the molecular mechanisms that underlie the suites of phenotypic alterations that can be induced by exposure to steroid hormones during development. We have explored gonadal expression of genes related to steroidogenesis in Gallus gallus chicks exposed to in ovo testosterone, and the effects of acute glucocorticoid exposure on persistent changes in gene expression in tissue of free-living kittiwake chicks.

Effects of food availability and stress of the physiology and behavior of Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). 

A kittiwake is temporarily fitted with a GPS unit.

The opportunity to return to Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska has opened up an array of research questions about the role of food in the development, physiology and behavior of free-living seabirds. The infrastructure from the long-term food supplementation study at this site (initiated and maintained by Dr. Scott Hatch) provides minimally disruptive access to known-age breeding birds and their chicks, as well as the ability to manipulate food availability. We are interested in how food and the physiological stress associated with reduced access to food at all life stages shape gene expression, physiology, behavior and reproductive strategies in these marine top predators.