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Emilie C. Snell-Rood

Associate Professor


Graduate Faculty Memberships

Ecology, Evolution and Behavior

Research Interests

Environmental variation is ubiquitous. Learning and phenotypic plasticity play a crucial role in allowing organisms to cope with such variation. Understanding why organisms vary in the degree of plasticity is important to predicting how species will respond to human-induced environmental change, such as global warming, the spread of non-native species, and habitat conversion. My research focuses on the idea that the developmental mechanism of plasticity determines the costs and constraints of plasticity. Taking a developmental approach yields important insights into understanding the evolutionary conditions favoring plasticity.

I am primarily interested in the evolution of learning, focusing on topics such as the costs of learning and information acquisition, and the role of developmental timing and nutrition as constraints on the evolution of learning. Some of my research considers the role of relaxed selection as a limit on the evolution of alternate developmental pathways. I am also interested in how species respond to novel and changing environments, including the role of learning and plasticity in this process, and the effects of behaviorally mediated cryptic genetic variation.


Selected Publications


Snell-Rood, E. C., R. Cothran, A. Espeset, P. Jeyasingh, S. Hobbie, N. Morehouse. 2015. Life history evolution in the anthropocene: effects of increasing nutrients on traits and tradeoffs. In press, Evolutionary Applications.

Kijimoto, T., E. C. Snell-Rood, M. Pespeni, G. Rocha, K. Kafadar, A. P. Moczek. 2014. The nutritionally responsive transcriptome of the polyphenic beetle Onthophagus taurus and the importance of sex and body region. In press, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Snell-Rood, E. C., A. Espeset, C. Boser, W. A. White, R. Smykalski. 2014. Anthropogenic changes in sodium affect neural and muscle development in butter´Čéies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111: 10221-10226.

Snell-Rood, E. C., G. Davidowitz, and D. R. Papaj. 2013. Plasticity in learning causes immediate and trans-generational changes in energy allocation. Integrative and Comparative Biology 53: 329-339.

Snell-Rood, E. C., and N. Wick. 2013. Anthropogenic environments exert variable selection on cranial capacity in mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 280: 1471-2954. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1384 

Snell-Rood, E. C. 2013. An overview of the evolutionary causes and consequences of behavioral plasticity. Animal Behaviour 85: 1004-1011.

Snell-Rood, E. C., A. Troth, and A. P. Moczek. 2012. DNA methylation as a mechanism of nutritional plasticity: insights from horned beetles. In press, Journal of Experimental Zoology B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.22479 


Snell-Rood, E. C. 2012. Selective processes in development: implications for the costs and benefits of phenotypic plasticity. Integrative and Comparative Biology 52: 31-42. 


Snell-Rood, E. C., and A. P. Moczek. 2012. Insulin signaling as a mechanism underlying developmental plasticity: the role of FOXO in a nutritional polyphenism.  PLoS One 7: e34857. 


Snell-Rood, E. C. 2012. The effect of climate on acoustic signals: does atmospheric sound absorption matter for bird song and bat echolocation? Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 131:1650-1658. 


Snell-Rood, E. C., G. Davidowitz, and D. R. Papaj.  2011. Reproductive tradeoffs of learning in a butterfly.  Behavioral Ecology 22: 291-302. 


Snell-Rood, E. C., A. Cash, M. V. Han, T. Kijimoto, A. Andrews, and A. P. Moczek. 2011. Developmental decoupling of alternative phenotypes: insights from the transcriptomes of horn-polyphenic beetles. Evolution 65: 231-245. 


Pfennig, D. W., M. A. Wund, E. C. Snell-Rood, T. Cruickshank, and C. D. Schlichting. 2010. Phenotypic plasticity's impacts on diversification and speciation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 459-467. 


Snell-Rood, E.C., J. D. Van Dyken, T. Cruickshank, M. J. Wade, and A. P. Moczek. 2010. Toward a population genetic framework of developmental evolution: costs, limits, and consequences of phenotypic plasticity. BioEssays 32:71-81.


Snell-Rood, E. C, and D. R. Papaj. 2009. Patterns of phenotypic plasticity in common and rare environments: a study of host use and color learning in the cabbage white butterfly, Pieris rapae. American Naturalist 173: 615-631. 


Snell-Rood, E. C., D. R. Papaj, and W. Gronenberg. 2009. Brain size: a global or induced cost of learning? Brain, Behavior and Evolution. 73:111-128.


Snell-Rood, E. C., and A. V. Badyaev. 2008. Ecological gradient of sexual selection: Elevation and song complexity in finches.  Oecologia 157: 545-551.


Additional Links

Snell-Rood Lab


612-624-7238 Fax: 612-626-6777

100 Ecology
1987 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul, MN 55108