The Role of Glucocorticoids in Mediating Life History Tradeoffs
Many organisms exhibit life history trade-offs, where an increase in allocation of resources to one life history function, such as reproduction, induces a concomitant decrease in allocation to another function, such as the immune system. What is not known are the physiological mechanisms that underlie these trade-offs.
Fran Bonier's research is aimed at determining the role that glucocorticoids, commonly referred to as “stress hormones,” play in mediating life history trade-offs. Her research will involve field studies of free ranging Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor).
In previous work, Fran has documented surprising positive relationships between glucocorticoid hormone levels and reproductive success. Her current research will involve conducting experimental manipulations of glucocorticoid hormone levels in free ranging Tree Swallows to determine the causal relationships underlying this unexpected correlation.
This work will produce valuable information which will have implications for the management of endangered species. Glucocorticoid levels often increase in response to habitat disturbance, so an understanding of how these hormones effect reproduction and survival can inform our understanding of populations in disturbed habitat. Finally, because glucocorticoids are found in all vertebrates, including humans, the findings from this study might have important implications for human health.
Fran completed her PhD in Zoology at the University of Washington, and was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at Virginia Tech.
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