Much of my basic research focuses on the optimal expression of body temperature (i.e. thermoregulation) under varying ecological conditions as well as the evolutionary history that has led to the patterns of thermoregulation we see today. More recently, I have been working on stress physiology and the ecological effects of that stress. I use a multitude of approaches including non-manipulative data collection under natural conditions, experimental manipulations, computer modeling, and comparative analytical techniques. Insectivorous bats have been the most common model organisms in my past research, but more recently I have expanded my research to include everything from ants to birds to elephant shrews.
I apply my basic research to address responses of endothermic species to environmental stressors. In particular, I am interested in responses to anthropogenic stressors, like climate change, land-use changes, disease, and light pollution. My interest in this area ranges from purely ecological (e.g., trophic interactions in human-altered landscapes and around artificial lights) to purely physiological (e.g., thermoregulatory acclimation to heat stress and metabolic functioning). I am interested in recruiting students to work on any human-related stressor in natural environments.
Ongoing and Continuing Reseach
Community (physiological) Ecology: Robin Warne, Sara Baer, and I are undertaking an NSF-funded project evaluating how anthropogenically caused physiological stress can alter foraging behavior of kangaroo rats, and how those changes can have knock-on effects on plant reproduction and survival. We are making use of cutting-edge physiological manipulations, radio-telemetry techniques, and stable isotope tracking of seed and plant fate to link physiology to behavior to community dynamics and ecosystem functioning.
Evolution and Ecology of Thermoregulation: The evolution of thermoregulatory patterns in mammals and birds has fascinated biologists for decades. Describing variation in thermoregulatory patterns and determining the distribution of those patterns, both phylogenetically and geographically, is vital to understanding the evolutionary history of endothermy. Over the past several years, I have worked in this line of research on multiple levels, from measuring thermoregulatory patterns of species around the world to conducting large-scale comparative analyses of those patterns.
Light Pollution: My lab researches light pollution at multiple spatial and temporal scales. For example, we have shown that even temporary light pollution has the potential to disrupt a coevolutionary arms race by changing predator-prey interactions of eared moths and bats. We are also currently using global analyses to identify areas worldwide that are especially threatened by light pollution, and how light pollution might affect migratory pathways of nocturnally migrating species.
Hibernation Physiology and Ecology: I have long been interested in the physiology and ecology of hibernation, especially in temperate-zone bats. I have published papers on everything from energetics to behavior to population dynamics, and because of this interest, I was heavily involved with research on White-nose Syndrome for several years.