Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology
Host: Darcy Kelley
Title: Coping with environmental change: integrating behavior and mechanism
Abstract: If organisms are to persist in the face of climate change, they must be able to deal not only with increasing temperatures, but also greater climatic variation. Using superb starlings (Lamprotornis superbus), which inhabit a range of East African environments where rainfall varies within and among years, I will explore the behavioral, physiological, and molecular mechanisms that underlie adaptive plasticity and environmental coping in a species that has evolved in a naturally unpredictable environment. I will discuss the role environmental variation has played in shaping the complex social lives of these and other birds, and then explore the ways in which it has shaped the evolution and plasticity (via changes in circulating hormone levels and in DNA methylation) of the vertebrate stress axis patterns, as well as the entire genome. Ultimately, I will demonstrate how environmental uncertainty has enabled organisms to respond plastically to environmental change and maximize their fitness in unpredictable environments.