I am a PhD student broadly interested how the developmental environment that an embryo faces can impact adult behavioral traits. My current project is investigating the presence/absence and ontogeny of the prenatal microbiome in Mus domesticus.
Presenting at SICB 2016 in New Orleans on my Masters work
Presenting at SICB 2020 in Austin
The effect of placental genotype on pre- and postpartum maternal behaviors in an interspecific mouse cross (Masters student, Oklahoma State University 2015-2017)
The mammalian placenta is a source of endocrine signals that prime the onset of maternal care at parturition. While consequences of placental dysfunction for offspring growth are well defined, how altered placental signalling might affect maternal behavior is unstudied in a natural system. In the cross between sympatric mouse species, Mus musculus domesticus and Mus spretus, hybrid placentas are undersized and show misexpression of genes critical to placental endocrine function. Using this cross, we quantified the effects of placental dysregulation on maternal and anxiety-like behaviors in mice that differed only in pregnancy type. Relative to mothers of conspecific litters, females exposed to hybrid placentas did not differ in anxiety-like behaviors but were slower to retrieve 1-day-old pups and spent less time in the nest on the night following parturition. Early deficits in maternal responsiveness were not explained by reduced ultrasonic vocalization production in hybrid pups and there was no effect of pup genotype on measures of maternal behavior and physiology collected after the first 24 h postpartum. These results suggest that placental dysregulation leads to poor maternal priming, the effect of which is alleviated by continued exposure to pups.
Investment in parental provisioning predicts responses to novelty in free-living house sparrows (Undergraduate researcher, Transylvania University 2013-2015)
House sparrows (Passer domesticus) form socially monogamous pairs and engage in biparental care of offspring. Not all pairs are equally successful in fledging chicks, which is not surprising since house sparrows exhibit substantial and stable
variation among individuals in
provisioning behavior. Thus parental
provisioning may be thought of as a
personality trait, and may represent
variation in sensitivity to offspring
demand or environmental variability.
Differences in provisioning may also
represent different parental investment
strategies. In this experiment, we
tested whether provisioning predicted
individuals’ responses to novel objects.
Since interaction with a novel object is
potentially risky, we predicted that individuals that demonstrated high levels of investment would respond differently than individuals that demonstrated lower levels of investment. We found a significant relationship between initial provisioning rate and the change in provisioning in response to a novel object. Birds that provisioned at the highest levels increased their number of nest visits in response to a novel object, while all other birds decreased provisioning, sometimes substantially.