I am fascinated by the interplay of environmental signals and the physiological and behavioral expressions of organisms and primarily those of migratory birds. As migration is the movement to and away from areas where species breed, each trip is composed of multiple steps or substages that involve regulation of the neuroendocrine, endocrine, metabolic, and behavioral systems. During these trips, organisms are exposed to a wide range environmental conditions that include photoperiod, atmospheric and climatic, food availability, predation and unpredictable perturbations. Thus, in order for migrants to be successful they rely on environmental information to cue progression of each substage. Migrants therefore can serve as an effective model for studying how organisms rely on environmental conditions and respond to unpredictable changes such as global climate fluctuations.
Former studies in my lab have focused on the effects of photoperiod, lunar condition, food availability and stressors on migratory specific characteristics that include migratory behavior (behavior that includes migratory restlessness, feeding, land locomotor activity) and measures of the endocrine and metabolic systems.
My other studies include vocal communication of nocturnal migrants, role of experience and geomagnetic field on orientation during migration, endogenous rhythms and migratory behavior, effects of prolonged migratory restlessness on the endocrine and metabolic systems.
Currently we are using the migrant/resident model present in the Pacific White-crowned Sparrows subspecies (Zonotrichia leucophrys) to compare the physiological and behavioral traits attributed to the migratory life history and assess whether these features are present in residents and may be considered more in seasonal terms rather then strictly migratory.