PHONE: 314-516-7274 (office) 7277 (lab)
Behavioral ecology: We are interested in the behavioral and evolutionary ecology of natural populations, and how behavioral processes impact individual fitness and population viability. We study the intersection of characteristics of individual organisms and population-level processes, ranging from behavioral correlates of mating, reproductive success, and more recently, to genetic differentiation among populations and transmission of disease. Currently, many of our studies take place on the Galapagos Islands, where the fairly simply ecologies of different islands present a "natural laboratory" for investigations of the ecological and behavioral components of fitness.
Disease ecology: In addition, we are always interested in applying our improved understanding of population dynamics to conservation of threatened populations. With the St. Louis Zoo's Wildcare Institute, our UMSL research group has undertaken a collaboration to survey diseases of the endemic and introduced avifauna of the Galapagos Islands, in collaboration with the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park. The list of selected publications below and the full list available through the link will reveal this important interaction. We are finding pathogens of three broad categories: (1) those that seem to have arrived with the colonizing ancestors of the current endemic fauna and diversified alongside their hosts; (2) those that are more recent arrivals, perhaps through introduced or domestic animals; and (3) those that may have jumped from one host lineage to another since their arrival in the islands. These data, especially when combined with population genetic data on current and historic movement of host populations among islands, provide managers with important information on current threats and possibilities for remediation, as well as many opportunities for studies of interest to basic science.