Research in my lab focuses on the social behavior of animals, with an emphasis on the mechanisms, development, and function of vertebrate social behavior. A second area of interest is dispersal, particularly as it relates to social structure and organization. Both of these topics are crucial to our understanding of evolution and to conservation efforts. A third and new area of research is the behavioral ecology of the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa)
In the area of social behavior, a primary interest has been communication, particularly chemical communication, in rodents and reptiles (e.g., Halpin 1986, 1990). Specifically, my research on individual odors demonstrated that mammalian odors can function in the discrimination of individuals, mates, and offspring, and other kin; they can also affect mating success and reproductive performance.
Research in my lab has also examined various aspects of kin discrimination, as well as the effects of kinship and social familiarity on social behavior and reproductive success. These studies have focused on understanding the mechanisms and development of kin discrimination and on elucidating the cues by which related individuals recognize one another (e.g., Halpin 1991, Tang-Martinez 2001).
Mammalian dispersal has been an ongoing area of interest (e.g., Chepko-Sade and Halpin 1987), and several of my students are conducting research on this topic. Dispersal patterns, including philopatry, can influence, and be influenced, by social structure and social behavior. Studies on dispersal can lead to a better understanding of mating systems and genetic structure of populations; additionally, they can be important in establishing realistic estimates of effective population size, as well as in determining genetic variability within and between populations.
At present, most of my students are conducting research on the demography, dispersal, and/or development of social behavior in various species of North American and neo-tropical mammals. Most of this research is being done in the field, but one student is working in the laboratory. Due to the high costs of animal care, and inadequate support for our animal care unit, after 2001 I will no longer accept students wishing to conduct laboratory studies on rodents.
In summer 2002, I initiated a new research project on the behavioral ecology and social behavior of brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa). These highly poisonous, but very timid spiders are extremely common in St. Louis, particularly in older houses. My research is a "field study" being conducted on a natural population of brown recluses living in the basement of my house. In addition to developing an ethogram, I am examining site fidelity, habitat preferences, population dynamics and social interactions of this terrestrial sit and wait predator.
I also have a strong interest in theoretical
issues, as well as in the philosophy and history of biology (see Braude et al. 1999; Tang-Martinez 1997, 2000, 2001, 2005).
Areas of focus are the history of biological determinism, the human sociobiology debate, ethical issues in biology, and the development of scientific ideas and paradigms.
Research Keywords - animal behavior, social behavior, dispersal, chemical communication, kinship, kin recognition, effects of early environment, dispersal, history of biology
Taxonomic Groups of Particular Interest - Mammals (particularly rodents and carnivores), Reptiles, Spiders.
Professional History and Positions
Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO. 1976-present.
Selected Professional Activities
Associate Porfessor, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO. 1982-1994.
Full Professor, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO. 1994-present.
Interim Chairperson, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO. 1988-1989.
Director of Women's Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, MO. 1989-1990.
Visiting Scholar, University of Colorado-Boulder, Department of Psychology, Boulder, CO. 1983-1984.
Visiting Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Department of Systematics and Ecology, Lawrence, KS. 1990 1991.
Visiting Professor, Washington University, Department of Biology, St. Louis, MO. 1997-1999; 2006-2007.
Visiting Professor, Universidad Simón Bolivar, Department of Environmental Sciences, Caracas, Venezuela. 1998.
President, Animal Behavior Society, 1993-1994.
Honors and Awards
Chair, Latin American Affairs Committee of Animal Behavior Society, 1995 - present.
Chair, Division of Animal Behavior, American Society of Zoologists, 1989-1991.
Organizer of Midwest Animal Behavior Meeting, 1983.
South Africa Faculty Exchange Scholar, Department of Zoology, University of Western Cape, Capetown, South Africa, 1992.
NSF Panel Member (Animal Behavior Program and various other panels).
Elected President of Animal Behavior Society, 1993-1994.
Recent and Current Students and Postdoctoral Associates
Elected Chair, Division of Animal Behavior, American Society of Zoologists, 1990-1992.
Selected as the "O'Neil Ray Collins Distinguished Minority Scientist", by Scientists of Color, University of California at Berkeley, 1995.
Awarded the "Educational Equity Award for Higher Education", by the St. Louis Educational Equity Coalition, 1995.
Animal Behavior Society's Exceptional Service Career Award, 2007
Christine H. Barfield (M.S. 1991) - Parent-offspring recognition by vocal cues in domestic cattle.
Michael L. Phillips (M.S. 1993) - Parent-offspring recognition in prairie voles.
Paul E. Foeller (M.S. 1996) - Parent-offspring conflict in prairie voles.
Recent Undergraduate and High School Assistants:
Guillermo Paz y Miño C. (Ph.D. 1998) - Sibling recognition and effects of odor cues in prairie voles.
Susan Gustafson (M.S. 2001) - Behavioral ecology and conservation-birds.
Jaynie Doerr (M.S. 2002) - Demography and natal dispersal in opossums.
Debbie Boege Tobin (Ph.D. 2005) - Behavioral ecology of river otters.
Danielle Lee (Ph.D.) - Effects of early social environment on adult behavior in voles.
Elizabeth Congdon (Ph.D.) - Behavioral ecology and dispersal of capybaras.
Courtney Hibbs (M.S.) - Mother offspring interaction in Llamas.
Marcela Fernandez (M.S. 2006) - Chemical and auditory communication in the singing mouse, Scotynomys teguina.
Alex Maywright (M.S.) Social interactions in brown recluse spiders.
Gena Sbeglia (M.S.) Social behavior in ring-tailed lemurs.
Laura Riley (M.S.) Undecided
B. Postdoctoral Associates
Stanton Braude (1990 - 1994: Social behavior and evolution in naked mole rats
Andrea Bixler (1996-2000). Genetic relatedness and reproductive performance, inbreeding effects and mate choice in prairie voles.
Honorary Lab Members:
Javier Fernandez - Photoperiod effects on social behavior and colony growth in bumblebees
Karen Norberg, M.D. - sexual selection
Our people ; at work ; at play
Courses Taught (Partial Listing):
- Animal Behavior (Lecture and Lab)
- Behavioral Ecology
- Evolution of Sociality
- Selección Sexual (graduate level course taught at Universidad Simón Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela, 1998)
- Graduate Seminar (Various Topics in Animal Behavior and Evolution)
- Senior Seminar (Social and Ethical Issues in Biology)
- Honors College Seminar (Biological and Genetic Determinism)
- Introductory Biology: Semester on Diversity, Evolution, Ecology, Behavior, Systematics
- General Biology for Non-Majors
- Special Topics in Biology (Philosophical Perspectives in the History of Biology; Inbreeding and Dispersal; Foundation Papers in Animal Behavior)
- Women and Science (Women's Studies Program)
National and International Professional Service (Partial Listing):
- Chair, Animal Behavior Society Animal Care Committee, 1978-1981.
- Panel Member, National Science Foundation: Visiting Professorships for Women. 1989.
- Panel Member, National Science Foundation: Postdoctoral Research Fellowships. 1993.
- Panel Member, National Science Foundation: Animal Behavior Program. 1997-2002.
- Panel Member, National Institutes of Health, Behavioral/ Biobehavioral Sciences. 2002.
- Chair and Founder: Animal Behavior Society Latin American Affairs Committee. 1996-2002.
- Member (elected for life) Animal Behavior Society Latin American Affairs Committee. 2002-present.
- Reviewer for approximately 25 national and international scientific journals, book publishers, and funding agencies.
- U.S. Delegate: International Council for Ethology (IEC Council). 2003, 2007.
- Co-organizer and Co-facilitator: Animal Behavior Society's Undergraduate Turner Program, 2007.
Hobbies and Extracurricular Activities
Birding; hiking; photography; Tai Chi Chen; collecting animal postage stamps; collecting African, Native American, and Venezuelan art; reading about geology, astronomy, and the sociology of modern religious movements and cults. I enjoy movies, the theater, and musical concerts. I also work with the public policy/legislative and diversity committees of the St. Louis Alzheimer's Association. I am active in progressive/liberal politics.
REGRETS: Because of retirement plans, I am no longer accepting new graduate students.