Current Research Projects

HouseFinchImage copy1. Urban effects on bird life histories

In this project we apply a systematic approach to urban life-history and physiological adaptations, studying individual variation in life-history, physiological, and behavioral traits along the urbanization gradient in a model species of urbanization research, the house finch. The project uses a multidisciplinary approach that involves field study methods for analyzing survival, reproduction, and behavior, and lab methods for quantifying physiological state, oxidative stress, and immune status.

Pinzón_mexicano,_House_Finch._Carpodacus_mexicanus_(9298656782)2. Carotenoid physiology in finches

We are studying mechanisms of carotenoid coloration and how they are regulated by individual condition and the environment in finches, especially house finches. We are specifically focusing on trade-offs between a sexually-selected signal (e.g. carotenoid-rich feathers) and individual maintenance (e.g. carotenoids as antioxidants).

3. Dynamic color changeEasternWildTurkey-1570125523

To date most research has focused on comparatively static feather coloration, but we are undertaking a set of projects to explore the mechanisms and function of rapid skin color change in captive birds. (Dr. Alexis Dollion, Dr. McGraw)


Past Research Projects

  • The evolution of hummingbird coloration and courtship displays (NSF-IOS-1702016). With former PhD student, Rick Simpson.
  • Urbanization and pace-of-life syndrome in birds (Horizon 2020 EU grant # 701747). With former post-doc, Tuul Sepp.
  • Evolution of aggressive color-change signals in South African dwarf chameleons (NSF-IOS-1401236). With former PhD student, Rusty Ligon.
  • Comparative study of light environment and wing coloration in South American butterflies (NSF-IOS-1501556). With former PhD student, Brett Seymoure, and SOLS emeritus professor, Dr. Ron Rutowski.
  • Control and function of retinal carotenoids in house finches (NSF-IOS-0910357). With former PhD student, Matt Toomey.
  • Urban effects on carotenoid pigmentation in house finches (NSF-IOS-0923694). With former PhD student, Matt Toomey, and post-doctoral associate, Mathieu Giraudeau.
  • Impacts of the Fukushima radioactive disaster on morphology and physiology of birds and frogs (ANR research grant, France). With post-doctoral associate, Mathieu Giraudeau, and SOLS professor, Dr. Pierre Deviche.
  • Developmental effects of carotenoids and immune challenge on adult coloration and health in mallard ducks (NSF-IOS-0746364). With former PhD student, Mike Butler, and former post-doctoral associate, Melissah Rowe.
  • Evolution of carotenoid allocation in introduced European passerines to New Zealand (Erskinne sabbatical fellowship from the University of Canterbury, N.Z., to K. McGraw).
  • Iridescent plumage coloration as a signal of aggression in Anna’s hummingbirds (NSF graduate research fellowship to former PhD student, Melissa Meadows).
  • Ornate coloration as a signal of quality in the jumping spider Habronattus pyrrithrix (NSF graduate research fellowship to former PhD student, Lisa Taylor).