Concentration in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution (EBE)
Faculty, post-docs, and graduate students in this concentration
work on diverse aspects of ecology, behavior and evolution,
including adaptation, animal movement and habitat selection, sexual
selection, social behavior, community assembly, stress, insect-plant
interactions, speciation, life history evolution, metamorphosis, and
wildlife management. Work in this area integrates fieldwork with
laboratory studies to identify key ecological patterns and
investigate the mechanisms generating those patterns. These studies
include work on plant, microbial, and animal systems in both marine
and terrestrial environments.
Suggested Program of Study and Appropriate Courses >
Faculty mentors accepting students in EBE:
Additional faculty mentors: Francie Chew,
The Lewis laboratory studies behavior from an evolutionary
perspective, and is particularly interested in the ecological
context of sexual selection in natural populations. This work uses a
variety of model organisms to examine how sex ratios, population
density, and parental investment may alter the predicted patterns of
courtship behavior and the relative intensity of sexual selection on
males and females. Studies on fireflies and the flour beetle
Tribolium explore how pre-copulatory and post-copulatory behaviors
interact to determine overall reproductive success.
One of Science's greatest challenges is to understand the origins of
biological diversity in nature. As pointed out by Ernst Mayr,
biodiversity has both proximate (e.g., genetic) and ultimate
(evolutionary) causes. The Dopman lab applies a unified conceptual
framework to investigate both forms of causation through a
combination of experimental and comparative studies, and by drawing
on various approaches, including population genetics, genomics,
bioinformatics, and molecular genetics. Although we focus on
long-standing problems in evolutionary biology, we use modern tools
and techniques to advance our research goals (e.g., DNA microarrays,
The Starks laboratory studies animal behavior from an evolutionary
perspective, and focuses
primarily on the adaptive significance of social behavior in
insects. Research in the Starks Lab is
multi-faceted: lab members engage in studies that are observational,
theoretical. In order to answer research questions, lab members use
both field and laboratory
techniques. Primary areas of interest relate to invasion biology,
host-parasite interactions, communication, and the evolution of
Research in the Wolfe lab links ecological and evolutionary patterns
in microbial communities with the molecular mechanisms that generate
these patterns. Using tractable microbial communities from fermented
foods, we address two broad research goals: 1) identify the
molecular mechanisms that control the assembly and function of
microbial communities and 2) determine how microbial species evolve
within multi-species communities. Projects integrate experimental
evolution, metagenomics, comparative genomics/transcriptomics,
genome engineering, and in situ community reconstructions. Our work
will help develop principles of microbial community assembly that
can guide the design and manipulation of microbial communities in
industry, medicine, and nature.
Researchers in the Pechenik laboratory are generally concerned with environmental
influences on the development and behavior of marine invertebrates. Current projects
include control of metamorphosis during development, impact of ocean acidification
and other stresses on development and metamorphosis, delayed ("latent") effects of
exposure to stresses during development and the underlying molecular basis for those
effects, reproductive and physiological adaptations for development under thermal stress,
and environmental causes of yearly variation in shell quality for marine hermit crabs.
Our research falls broadly in the area of population ecology, with emphasis on two overarching themes.
The first is using theoretical ecology to improve conservation, restoration and wildlife management.
Applied ecologists usually need to design management strategies in the absence of complete
information about causes of the problems they need to manage. Ecological theory - broadly
defined as different ideas about how systems work - provides a context for outlining what
factors might be important, and under what circumstances they are most likely to matter.
The second theme is uniting natural history and theoretical population ecology. By this
we do not mean that population models should include all details of life history and
basic biology. The goal of a model is to simplify systems by capturing the key processes
and interactions that determine a particular response. Therefore, the question is under
which conditions simplified models capture the essence of more complicated systems,
in spite of being incorrect, and under which the differences between natural history
and model assumptions lead to predictions that differ systematically from those of simple models.
I am most interested in how plants defend themselves against
herbivores or how plants exploit patchily available resources.
Members of the Orians laboratory group integrate laboratory,
greenhouse and field research to examine both the patterns and
mechanisms of plant responses. This approach lends itself to working
at different scales, such as at the chemical, physiological, or
community level - any one of which might serve as the central focus
of a project. Projects include the induction of tolerance and
resistance traits in response to herbivory, patterns and
consequences of differential tree responses to patchy soil nutrient
availability, and effects of herbivory on carbon allocation to
recalcitrant carbon pools.
I am interested in a wide variety of conservation related research
problems. Most of my research focuses on identify characteristics of
species that put them at risk to human-caused threats, understanding
why (or how) these characteristics put a species at risk, and to
determining how best to reduce the risk. I have been working, in
particular, on the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on
extinction risk and population viability, and on the importance of
animal behavior in extinction risk and conservation. Although I am
primarily a "bird" person, some of my recent students worked (or
work) on amphibians, moss, and butterflies. I have worked in forests
and wetlands, evaluating habitat loss and fragmentation as well as
the impacts of grazing, logging, and suburban sprawl on
Research in the Tytell laboratory focuses on understanding the neural control and biomechanics of
locomotion in fishes. We aim to understand how neural circuits, body mechanics, fluid dynamics, and
sensory systems work together to allow animals to move effectively through complex and unpredictable
environments. The work is highly interdisciplinary, integrating neuroscience, sensory and muscle
physiology, and functional morphology with quantitative, computational, and engineering techniques.
We also use comparative techniques to understand the evolution of functional differences in
locomotory performance in vertebrates.
The Trimmer laboratory focuses on the role played by
neurotransmitter receptors and their associated cellular effects in
identified motoneurons of the insect Manduca sexta. The general aim
of this research is to identify biochemical and molecular processes
that underlie simple behaviors. Although we are interested in many
neurotransmitter systems, our present research focuses on the
different classes of receptors for the neurotransmitter
acetylcholine (ACh) and on the neurotransmitter gas nitric oxide
(NO). We are also studying how caterpillars walk and coordinate
movements so that we can understand the neural control of
soft-bodied locomotion. This work might eventually be used to design
a new type of flexible robot.
Chew Research Group
Dr. Chew's interests are in insect-plant interactions, particularly
ecological and chemical aspects of interactions between native
insects and weedy introduced plants, and the evolution of various
butterfly groups. Previous graduate students have worked on these
questions or have forged their own collaborations with The Nature
Conservancy and other interest groups. She is also the Director of
the American Studies Program.
The Ellmore laboratory focuses on plant development and growth
strategies in novel environments. Responses of germination, seedling
establishment, and root growth to environmental variations,
especially those associated with wetlands and tropical sites.
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