My PhD research with Hans Hofmann explores the effect of the social environment on individual variation and social interactions in the African cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni. Specifically, I want to understand how neural, hormonal, and genomic patterns that underlie social behaviors differ both within and across individuals. Currently, I’m working to combine behavioral data (space use, aggression, reproduction) with measures of sex and stress hormones, as well as transcriptome data from key brain regions involved in social behavior. So far, I’ve been able to identify unique styles of dominant, territorial males and determine their effect on the social community.
I also worked with Molly Cummings to explore how physiological manipulations alter social and reproductive interactions in two species of Poeciliid fish (sailfin mollies and mosquitofish). Specifically, I manipulated estrogen levels in females from the two species and examined the effects on opsin expression. I found that while the two species inhabit the same freshwater environments, they exhibit different sensitivity (in opsin expression) to estrogen manipulation. I was also able to help out with hormone analyses for a cool project on poison dart frogs.
My MSc research at McGill with Lauren Chapman and Nadia Aubin-Horth explored the impact of the physical environment on the physiology and behavior of the African cichlid fish, Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor victoriae. Specifically, I validated a technique to measure sex hormones in our species of cichlid, and then examined the effect of low dissolved oxygen on measures of reproduction in cichlids in the laboratory and the field. I found that low oxygen could disrupt the ratio of sex hormones and modify male reproductive displays.