Bi-Parental Effects in Coyotes (Canis latrans)
For my dissertation work (2009-15), I focused on the mechanism commonly known as parental effects in coyotes. These parental effects generally describe the influences that parents have on their offspring above and beyond genetic inheritance. Factors such as behavior (e.g. provisioning, guarding, play) and hormones (e.g. cortisol, testosterone) can have significant effects on offspring that affect their development. Remarkably, parent's behavior and hormones both after AND before birth can initiate critical changes to offspring developmental trajectories that have longstanding consequences for those individuals even into adulthood.
My specific questions were:
- Do environmental perturbations during gestation or prior breeding experience influence maternal or paternal behavior?
- If so, are personality and hormonal traits of pups during development associated with parental traits?
- Finally, are the behavioral and hormonal traits of pups consistent into adulthood?
For more information on my thesis and findings, please visit the University of Chicago's dissertation office for a copy (click here).
Adaptive capacity of personality in coyotes
- How consistent are personality traits over time?
- How does plasticity in behavior correspond with underlying hormonal or genetic markers?
- Is there a hormonal or genetic basis for behaviors that facilitate adaptation of novel environments?
For my dissertation, I was interested in how personality develops and it's consistency from infancy to adulthood. I used a series of aptitude tests previously described for domestic dogs to determine whether we could predict personality traits that would manifest in adulthood. I also used several novel objects and foraging tests, and combined them with general observations of natural behaviors to gain a comprehensive picutre of coyote personality, something rarely done for this elusive species. More info to come on the results!
For my postdoctoral fellowship, I aim to better understand personality in the context of environmental and temporal variation. To that end, I closely monitor the urban Denver coyote population using a series of tests to quantify personality. Over the 3 years of my NSF postdoc (2015-18), my goal is to provide extensive and robust data both categorizing personality variation along an urban-to-rural gradient, as well as provide insight into the personality traits that have facilitated coyote expansion across the North American continent.
Accompanying Factors: Hormones, Genetics, and Genomics
Some of the major questions I'm interested in for my postdoc are:
- What are the genetic markers associated with target behaviors (e.g. boldness) that facilitate colonization of novel environments?
- Are there general hormonal differences for individuals that primarily inhabit urban versus rural environments?
- Can we use a genomics approach to better understand how urban wildlife are responding to urban residency?
From my dissertation work, we now know that there is a hormonal basis for boldness, aggression, and exploratory behaviors in coyotes. However, it is uncertain how hormonal profiles correlate with genetic markers of individuals in urban areas. Stay tuned for more information on this developing aspect of the DUCP project!