I am broadly interested in the evolutionary consequences and mechanistic basis of behavioral plasticity. I have addressed this topic to-date in the context of alternative reproductive strategies and tactics in the spider Nephila clavipes, and more recently in the context of socially-induced variation in aggression in the honey bee.
How exactly experiences take root in an organism and cause lasting behavioral change is a rich and intriguing area for integrative and comparative research. My research focuses on 1) how individuals perceive and respond to environmental variation 2) the mechanisms by which the environment “gets under the skin”, and 3) the evolution of behavioral strategies, including social behavior.
My research combines perspectives from behavioral ecology, behavioral genomics, and neuroscience, incorporating field experiments, modeling approaches, molecular biology, and large scale measures of gene expression. I have worked primarily with insect and spider species, which have a diverse range of behaviors and are amenable to experimental manipulations in the field and lab. However, I also have collaborated with scientists studying humans, mice, and stickleback fish to identify aspects of behavioral plasticity that are shared across species.