Current Research Projects
NSF Collaborative Research: Evolutionary reversals in hormonal modulation of growth-regulatory gene networks.
With Bob Cox (Univ. Virginia) and Christian Cox (Florida International Univ). Investigating evolutionary reversals in the effects of testosterone on growth and the expression of growth-regulatory gene networks in Sceloporus spp. and closely related lizards marked by opposite patterns of sexual size dimorphism, where females grow faster to become larger than males in some species while the opposite occurs in other species. Early data indicate that many of the underlying growth-regulatory genes are upregulated and stimulated by testosterone in males of male-larger species and down-regulated in males of female-larger species.
USDA-NIFA Hatch/Multi State: Agrochemical effects on human and environmental health: mechanisms and mitigation.
Investigating the dualism of testosterone as a growth inhibitor in some species of lizards and a growth stimulator in others. The objective is to develop a comprehensive understanding of growth regulation focused on modulation of gene expression. The longer-term aspirational goal is to inform the development and application of highly focused agrochemicals to alleviate unintended impacts on the health and well-being of wildlife species. New information discovered in this project may also serve to sharpen the focus of agrochemicals developed for intended effects on animal production.
George H Cook Honors Research (Ralph Good Award): Effects of forest thinning on the diversity and abundance of ticks and the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens in the New Jersey Pinelands Reserve.
With Julia Brennan (George H Cook Scholar) and Dina Fonseca, Director, Rutgers Center for Vector Biology in collaboration with Mike Gallagher, USDA Forest Service. In replicated thinned and unthinned forest plots at sites in the pinelands, investigating effects of thinning on forest structure, microclimate, the abundance and species diversity of ticks and their hosts, and the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens.
George H Cook Honors Research: Habitat selection models to predict the abundance, distribution, and overlap of Eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus) and red chigger mites (Eutrombicula alfreddugesi).
With Adam Yawdoszyn and Connor Anderson (George H Cook Scholars), Juan Bonachela (Rutgers Dept. Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources), and Lisa McManus (Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology). Investigating how easily-parameterized habitat characteristics can be used to develop habitat selection models for fence lizards and to predict the intensity of chigger mite ectoparasitism on lizards.
George H Cook Honors Research: Tolerance of Ectoparasitism in Eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus).
With Hailey Conrad (former George H Cook Scholar) and Nick Pollock (Univ. Texas – Arlington). Investigating ecological exposure and physiological susceptibility of Eastern fence lizards to chigger mite ectoparasitism. Even though individual lizards can be parasitized by more than 400 chigger mites at a time, ecological and physiological costs of these prodigious intensities of ectoparasitism are elusive, suggesting that fence lizards have evolved essentially infinite tolerance of the annoying but innocuous chigger mites.