It's been a while! This spring has been pretty crazy, with lots of travel for work (and some for fun), outreach events, and running experiments. I am looking forward to presenting some of my favorite results here in the upcoming weeks.
At the end of February, I participated in an outreach event with Hoke Lab Ph.D. student Kim Dolphin. In collaboration with the wonderful Pinhead Institute based in Telluride, we traveled to multiple elementary, middle, and high schools in southwestern Colorado. Using live guppies, we demonstrated basics of neurobiology, natural selection, genetics, and animal behavior. The guppies were champions, and the students were excited, sharp, and asked incredible questions. this area of the state is often underserviced, as it is difficult to access and far from most of Colorado's university campuses. We had a wonderful time and can't wait for our next outreach event, Expand Your Horizons, coming up next week, and to continue working with The Pinhead Institute!
You can read a small write-up of our event in Montrose here.
I attended SICB 2018 in San Francisco with a great group of people from the Hoke, Funk, and Ghalambor labs. While I unfortunately was struck down with a very bad cold, I still managed to give a talk about predator-induced maternal effects in guppies, see some great talks that gave me a lot to think about, and met some wonderful people. I also even managed to get outside and see some pinnipeds. All in all a very successful conference, and I hope to follow it up with some new data on mechanisms of maternal input on offspring development next year in Tampa!
Yesterday Sarah Coler, an honors student in the Hoke Lab, defended her honors thesis entitled "Impacts of group composition on the behavioral expression of contributing individuals and on cohesion of group antipredator response." I was Sarah's thesis adviser, and it was great to see this project grow from proposal to finished product. She was supported by an NSF REU during her time on this project.
Sarah approached me with this idea independently. She was interested in asking whether group composition influences individual behaviors, and whether individual behaviors influence group dynamics. She measured multiple female guppies over three days in an open field test to assess consistent differences in exploratory behavior. She then created groups of all exploratory, majority exploratory, majority non-exploratory, and all non-exploratory and let them familiarize for two weeks. She then measured group cohesiveness in an antipredator assay over the course of three days per group. Finally, she re-measured exploratory behavior of each individual following this group experience.
Sarah found that in the all-exploratory and majority non-exploratory groups, individuals became more alike, converging on a less exploratory phenotype. However, individuals in all non-exploratory and majority exploratory groups became more different from one another. Further, all non-exploratory and majority exploratory groups were more cohesive than all exploratory and majority non-exploratory groups. Sarah thinks that a "rare phenotype" effect might be in play, such that individuals will respond more strongly to the "outsider" individual in each group.
After graduation this weekend, Sarah is planning to become a Certified Nursing Assistant to prepare for applying to the Peace Corps. She potentially sees graduate school in her future. Good luck to Sarah!
It's finally happening! After months of very hard work by Hoke and Ghalambor graduate students Kim Dolphin, Craig Marshall, Alex Mauro, Super Lab Tech Leorah McGinnis, and a lot of silicone work on my part, we have established working flow-through fish systems in the new Biology building here at Colorado State University. These systems are very useful because they allow us to replicate an ecologically-relevant environmental cue for guppies: exposure to predators.
In a pilot study, I found intriguing evidence for maternal effects on offspring growth and behavior in response to experience with predation risk (stay tuned!) Now, breeding pairs from multiple populations are paired and ready to produce second-generation lab offspring to help us answer questions about the ecological and evolutionary ramifications of within- and across-generational plasticity.
Separately, I have also established breeding pairs for some super cool quantitative genetics studies. Guppies are so versatile for answering fundamental ecological and evolutionary questions.
Check back here for more updates as experiments progress!