evolving shorter genitalia

Check out our new paper that came out today! Male guppies evolved shorter genitalia in 8-12 generations when they were moved to streams with fewer predators. That’s rapid evolution! The amount of food but not predator odors in the environment also affected genitalia length (developmental plasticity).

Graphical abstract

Fall 2020 is… still happening!

I cannot believe that we are finishing week 4 and are still meeting face-to-face. I guess masks do work. It has been an adventure with fogging face shields, students in quarantine, crutches for the first 2 weeks, and courses delivered all of the ways (all of my classes are face-to-face, and students can join virtually synchronously, and everything is recorded for them to watch later). One new twist is that we were not allowed to travel to the marsh this semester for field research… so we’re doing urban ecology in the public park across from campus instead. So far it’s going well and is a lot of fun. Highlights include observing duck behavior and discussing Chris Schell’s new paper. I was so impressed with how well my freshman did with the material–Chris you’ve already impacted 50+ freshman with your work!

COVID update

It’s been a strange few months. Like most universities, we finished our semester virtually. I found it incredibly challenging, the most difficult semester of my career by far. I am thankful for the support I received from friends and family, especially my Animal Behavior peer mentoring group. My students were patient and committed despite diverse challenges that included everything from financial insecurity, to mental health issues, to sick family members and friends — some even lost loved ones to COVID during the semester. Their resilience was incredible and inspiring. As for coursework, my senior evolution students worked all semester to rear crickets in different treatments and develop research projects, but we were unable to collect data because we had to euthanize the laboratory animals when campus shut down. It was incredibly disappointing, but I am proud of the creative research projects they proposed. Our virtual biology graduation was a highlight (screenshot below).

graduation 2020 What about research? I worked with two fantastic undergraduates this semester, and we planned to travel to Hawaii this summer for fieldwork. Due to travel restrictions, we had to cancel the field season. It’s devastating that these students missed the opportunity to conduct fieldwork. Additionally, the data that we planned to collect were critical for current and future publications and grant proposals.

Is there a silver lining? I have more free time than I’ve had in years. Maybe I’ll finally revisit the backlog of data from my PhD and postdoc that I haven’t had time to publish. Thanks to technology, I’ve also been able to maintain research collaborations. Despite the challenges and disappointments this semester and summer, I’m lucky to have a home, a job, and to be quarantined with my partner. It’s also fortunate that I love to cook–I’ve had a blast getting creative with what I can find in the store. Here are some highlights.

I’ve thought a lot about the unique challenges everyone is facing right now, and my heart goes out to all those affected. I’m hopeful that this pandemic will result in positive societal changes, and I’m excited to see what higher education will look like in the future. Stay safe everyone!


Congrats Aaron!

gOCBL]QgCYz63ZN3b5jA_thumb_58f8I’m thrilled to announce that Aaron was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship! Aaron was my first lab member at SAU, and he has been a joy to work with over the past 2 years. The most exciting part is that he’ll be joining the Tinghitella lab in Denver, so we can continue to collaborate on purring cricket research!  

Thank you Craig for writing a lovely piece about Aaron.

St. Olaf visit

Thank you so much Norman Lee for the invitation to present our research at St. Olaf. Robin Tinghitella, my partner in crime, and I delivered a tag-team departmental seminar. I had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful campus, meeting lovely and engaged students, and planning a collaboration. Dr. Lee has figured out how to rear the parasitoid fly in his lab–the fly that kills our purring crickets in Hawaii! So many exciting research possibilities…


Aloha (bye) Hawaii

I am back in Iowa after another successful field season in Hawaii with a PSA for everyone: conducting fieldwork with the flu is not advisable. It was a rough one. (Yes I did get a flu shot.)

We were only able to collect all the data we needed because everyone in our research group is outstanding! Thanks Robin, Jay, and David for being so amazing–a special thanks to Erica Larson who joined us and “jumped” right in, helping with anything and everything. Thanks for covering for me while I was in bed with a fever for 2 days and picking up slack while I was miserably sick for another 7 days. In addition to sickness, we also had to adapt our research plans to deal with unforeseen challenges like rain and crazy wind almost every evening. Some field seasons are marathons–we walked a little bit but we crossed the finish line 🙂

And here are some pictures of the scenery…Hawaii is beautiful…wow…can’t complain

Freshman share original ecological research with the public

I’m so proud of my freshman in the Intro Bio Inquiry Learning Community. They knowledgeably and confidently presented their original research to members of the public at not one, but two poster symposia last week. Their semester-long research was creative, well-executed, and beautifully disseminated. #thisiswhatascientistlookslike

And here are all of the projects this semester:

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Happy Halloween!

I have had such a blast teaching honors animal communication this semester. Today for class we had a costume party with a potluck while we gave peer feedback on research proposals.