Members of the Zuk lab are driven by a passion for behavioral ecology. As a research group, we are broadly interested in sexual selection, and work on a wide range of projects related to sexual behavior, rapid signal evolution, and immune function.
Principal Investigator: Professor Marlene Zuk
I am an evolutionary ecologist broadly interested in how biodiversity is generated and maintained. More specifically, I am interested in how variation in ecological conditions can influence the evolution of mating systems and sexually selected traits, from elaborate signals to relatively inconspicuous aspects of genitalia. For my postdoctoral research in the Zuk lab, I have two main focuses. First, I am working to unravel consequences for T. oceanicus females, from the genetic to population level, following rapid spread of the “flatwing” mutation, which has rendered many male crickets obligately silent across the Hawaiian Islands. Second, I am investigating tradeoffs between sexual attractiveness and desiccation resistance in cuticular hydrocarbons in T. oceanicus across the South Pacific.
Current Graduate Students
My research interests broadly encompass the evolution of animal mating systems, life history theory, and ecoimmunology. I am especially interested in studying trade-offs between disease resistance and sexual selection under real-world environmental pressures. For my doctoral research, I plan to investigate the influence of climate change on insect reproduction and immune defense through an evolutionary and ecological framework.
I work in both vertebrate and invertebrate systems to answer questions about sexual selection and its consequences for signal evolution. My dissertation focuses on how females make mating decisions under conditions of realistic complexity, i.e., when signals are multivariate, environments are noisy, and there exists intra-individual variation in both signaler and receiver behavior. I am also interested in the role of behavioral plasticity in the adaptive differentiation of wild populations. I am co-advised by Dr. Mark Bee. Read more about my research here.
My research is fundamentally driven by the question: what is the adaptive significance of behavioral and transcriptional plasticity in response to environmentally induced stress? To this end, I have examined various biotic (e.g., parasites and pathogens) and abiotic (e.g., elevation, hypoxia, temperature) environmental stressors. I am especially interested in how the evolution of sexual signals, mating strategies, and population divergence are influenced by coevolution with parasites and pathogens. Read more about my research here.
Former Graduate Students
Libby Swanger, M.S.